Book Review: Girl Zines

Girl Zines Book Cover

Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Alison Piepmeier. Foreword by Andi Zeisler. (2009). New York: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0-814-76752-8

Today's book, Girl Zines by Alison Piepmeier, is an exploration of creative, self-published booklets called "zines." Zines have their historical roots in the pamphlets and leaflets distributed by people or groups outside the mainstream. These are often short-run, locally distributed booklets that cover a wide-range of topics—sexuality, gender, identity, politics—anything that sparks the imagination and/or passion of the zine authors.

In Girl Zines, Piepmeier gives readers a brief historical account of the emergence of zines and uses several enduring zines as examples of the varying ways zine authors use contemporary materials and topics to express ideas not possible in other forms of media. She writes:

"Zines are not merely words on a page: they are material artifacts that must be examined with attention to their visual and sculptural elements as components of their meaning." (p.18)

For many, zines seem to be not only a creative outlet, but also a platform to explore new or evolving ideas, push against boundaries or stereotypes, and reclaim power in oppressive personal, communal, or cultural situations. Piepmeier focuses on women and girls in this book and, through the telling of their stories in zine form (as imperfect and incomplete as that is), she gives a strong argument for piecing together feminine identity as it has been given voice through this medium.

I had heard of zines before reading this book, but did not really know what they were. Girl Zines is a way into the topic that goes beyond the artwork or self-publishing angle and helps give zines a historical foundation worth exploring further. It inspired me to start my own zine, janyce collages. The first edition is available in my gift shop.

Have you read this book? Let me know what I got wrong (or right!).

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Cheers!--Janyce