A review of Sarah B.’s zine Every Day Failures: Issue #1

failuresI love zines. That said, most zines are not tremendously well-written, and that’s okay, because polished literary writing isn’t really the point of zines at all. Still, some of them can be a rough read. So when I come across one that shows off really excellent writing and storytelling, it grabs my attention and I want people to know about it. The first issue of Sarah B.’s Every Day Failures was just such a zine.

Sarah and her longtime boyfriend, Matt, lived together in a collective house with friends both before and after their two girls were born. When the youngest was still a toddler and the oldest was 3, Matt got a “straight” job in the city and stopped coming around, leaving Sarah and the girls broke. Their housemates never complained about the kids, but Sarah sensed they weren’t digging the presence of the two little ones. Sarah’s aunt contacted her and asked her to house sit for her for two months while she traveled for work, and Sarah said yes. Suddenly, this punk rock mama found herself in a three story house in the burbs with more space than she could use, weird looks from the neighbors, and no money to buy food to cook in the enormous kitchen.

Most of Every Day Failures is Sarah’s descriptions of daily life in her aunt’s house as she tries to take care of her kids in the midst of her own mounting depression, loneliness, and frustration. Matt is hardly ever seen, and when he is, he doesn’t stay long. They have little to no money for food. In one particularly crushing scene, Sarah talks about the ultimately fruitless endeavor of applying for food stamps.

“The clerk returns and again treats me like she thinks that at best I’m an idiot and at worst I’m a scam artist. (That I am a terrible mother is without doubt considering where I am.) She gives me a list of items and forms I need to bring (besides all of our birth certificates, proof of residency, and my driver’s license which she’s already photocopied) to prove that I am as big of a fuck-up as my application suggests. Among the items I need are paystubs from Matt, since I made the mistake of being honest about receiving some money from him. I can’t even get him on the phone, much less get him to talk about things like applying for food stamps. Another 10 minutes of being treated like a criminal, then we are excused after one final threat about lying on applications or not turning paperwork in before the deadline.”

She goes on to explain she ended up throwing away the paperwork, since she would “rather starve than go back to the public assistance office again.” This passage was extremely frustratingly to read; I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been to live.

Sarah writes with honesty and skill, and as I was reading this autobiographical story I kept thinking how easily it could be turned into a short film of tremendous empathy and power. It’s a remarkable personal zine, and I hope there are many more issues of Every Day Failures to come.

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