I discovered zines in my freshman year of high school. My fourteen-year-old self was the amorphous, unsteady, disjointed merging of feelings and desires and misshapen selves all at once. I attend an arts-centered school and yet never felt wholly connected to a singular art. I didn’t want to just paint, to just draw, to just sing, to just act. At fourteen, I resented myself for being undefinable; I had no unflinching, wholehearted dedication to one thing (except writing, but that wasn’t clear yet). I never knew how to do one thing only, and a strange guilt lingered in me because of my inherent convolution—until I discovered zines.
Zines connected the finicky, restless dots of myself together. Zines were amalgams, bouquets of self, celebrations of undefinability, of complexity. They were collages of essays, poetry, photography, playlists, doodles, journal entries, fiction, letters, paintings, watercolors, tape and dried flowers and old Polaroids and everything, anything. Zines brought it all together and made the disparate tangible. I made zines badly, messily, but it never mattered, because originally, they were just for me. Zine-making started as an individual art, as small diaries of momentary Sofias. Eventually my love transformed into publishing those zines, and collaborating with friends, creating them for sharing and distributing, both print and digital. I read zines regularly and last year sold my own at the LA Zine Fest. Now more than ever, zines have this inimitable power to them that individualizes the political and encompasses all kinds of creativity. Zines are tools of community, underground correspondence, and they connect us in their nuance, depth, and refusal to conform to any one medium. Here are a few of the zines that I adore and read regularly:
DUM DUM Zine - Digital/print
Based in LA, this is one of the most well-curated zines out there, with a quality of work that is nearly unmatched in other zines. Dum Dum publishes a variety of mediums—mostly poetry and visual art—online and in print, available at the bookstores listed on their website. They also regularly host events like readings, workshops, and writing classes.
Gut Feelings Zine - Digital
I love this online zine. It’s endlessly unique, raw, and one of the most interesting zines I’ve come across. Everything published feels very much alive, authentic, even messy—in the best of ways. One of my favorite aspects of zines is the lack of elitism that so often runs rampant in regular literary magazines, and Gut Feelings is a direct, electrifying antidote to any artistic snobbiness.
Sula Collective - Digital
Sula Collective is an online magazine for and by people of color. Sula is beautifully designed and an extremely thoughtful publication—they publish work both on their website and in an Issuu format. Sula is a defiant, eclectic community and establishes a creative platform for PoC rare in most mainstream publications.
La Liga Zine - Digital
As a queer Latina myself, finding safe, accessible creative spaces specific to my community is often a tiring excavation. La Liga is amazing. The magazine has carved out this electric, unapologetic, tender, and fragmentary space for Latinxs/chicanxs to express and publish their art. The zine is a cultural exploration and, often, a reckoning with the layers and variations of Latinx identity.
Selfish Magazine - Print
This zine! I first discovered Selfish while browsing the (awe-inspiring) zine collection at Skylight Books, which I highly recommend, and I stood there reading for twenty minutes. I bought all of the editions available and read them multiple times. Some of the pieces in Selfish ached, burned, hurt, and seethed in me long after I read them.
The Messy Heads - Digital/print
The Messy Heads is available as a website and in print. I visit the site constantly, and what I adore most about this publication is its boundlessness. The work published transcends genres and elitism; they encourage all kinds of submissions and have created a hub of creativity that, more than any other publication, really embodies the feeling of being young. I read The Messy Heads to grasp inspiration for my own art—more than once I have come across pieces that feel like I’m walking around in my own heart, feeling old feelings I’d forgotten.
Rookie - Digital/print
Rookie is one of the most well-known teen publications out there, but I had to include it. Rookie defined so much of my adolescence, starting in middle school. I’d never read a publication that actually respected or validated or even gave space to the feelings of teenage girls, a space that knew our intelligence and never underestimated us. Rookie allowed me to feel complex, confused, and weird. I love, love, love Rookie and always will. I have their anthologies (of their best pieces) as well and highly recommend!
Ramona Magazine - Digital
I found Ramona only last year but I love the publication—their pieces are of such high quality and such diversity of thought, often vocalizing the most inexplicable pieces of girlhood.