People Make Plans by Nicole Jennelle
Her stomach is rough cut open. Paper flap reveals everything inside. Textures and a hidden message. A tiny envelope stuck to the inside opens, stark and to the point, not knowing exactly what it means, well, not yet.
People Make Plans deals with educator Nicole Jennelle’s experiences within education reform. The stomach is a fitting image for this zine because everything is churning, internalised deep within her gut. The main stories are dated and stamped with location. From New Bedford Massachusetts where Nicole grew up to Portland, Oregon and many cities in between. This is made clear via her ‘Moving Around The Country In Table Form’ with accompanying analysis “Rich people ruin everything cool”.
This is part diary, part personal manifesto. The grief from her mother’s death in 2008 consumes her. It is our first glimpse into her life, to understand some of the moments that have shaped her. Moving forward to 2010, we sit in the waiting room of the mental health walk in clinic. We share the camaraderie and friendship that is experienced when you share something in common. Nicole is bipolar and her path can sometimes be interrupted. Her life is often made up of impulsive decisions that can look irresponsible or signs that she is in crisis. Many times this is not the case. The struggle is trusting in herself and for others to trust her. Epiphanies that a ‘career’ and ‘success’ are imaginary goals and this part of her story is where we get deeper into her family crisis and the cycle of being ‘fucked by the law’ and ‘saved by the law’. When you or a family member have a mental illness or grow up in poverty which is the case here.
Nicole wants to change lives, to inspire learning,so in 2010 she joined the call with 600 other young teachers with the Teach For America corp. These ‘transported angels in yellow school buses’ are on a mission to enliven the poorer, urban students around Philadelphia. Nicole soon realises she does not fit in with the ‘positivity brigade’ that they “shoved at you with a kind of smiling violence”. A fascistic team building, chanting mind fuck cheer squad within this army of martyrs and guilt trippers. She can’t help but rebel her way, still trying to fit in, she believes in the message but not the method. Nothing can be slotted into nice neat boxes. The problem of education in poor areas is explained in her words, via her own experiences. I don’t know much about the education system in the States, though I do understand there are so many children victims of capitalism, racism and greed. Even giving her best doesn’t seem to be enough, her own past puts her in their eyes in a category of someone who needs help as well. But Nicole will prove that this is not the case. The personal touches, hand drawn notes and scribbles gives this zine an intimacy. A first hand account on the crisis. A discussion that you would be hard pressed to find like this in a mainstream publication. Absolutely adore it.
Welcome To Your New Life With You Being Happy by Rachel Bell
These Soliloquies are gorgeous. You see your younger self. Part one, Songs We Sing At Karaoke On The North Side Of The City, have accompanying little soundtracks to her vignettes. These are the titles to her stories. Some of the songs might be more like something your mum would play or a shopping centre, but hey, it must mean something to Rachel, and there are some gems mentioned. Overall, it adds to the ideas and mood of her days when they ear worm into your head. I love her freedom, the shine in her eyes when she gets boozy. The no consequences, the no worries, high on life and love. It reminds me of the line we all cross when we become adults, the death of the infantile ego. Her happiness is paramount, thoughts just pour moments of love but not romantised or over sentimental. Simple, natural and funny. She is a sweet dreamer, but not fanciful. There is a level head here that knows and understands herself and how to get it down on paper.
The flow of prose is spell binding and pumped some life into me. “I am deep in the cunt of your muggy summer” “I am still perched on your mound of Apollo. A cowboy hat grips your head how my lips do” Indeed! Part two, If I Die In Indiana I Will Kill Myself are micro memories and a great story on anti depressants and a new Catholic school. Her obsession with Saint Agnes and the fun she has tormenting her pro life teacher. This zine holds onto some innocence, but is sexy, romantic and a joy to read. She knows how to map her own happiness. This zine is available through Pioneers Press.
A High Degree Of Spring Fever by Elizabeth Maycox
Now onto another beauty. Elizabeth Maycox’s zine is a puzzle of paper and words that is wonderful on the eye. Textured cards and handmade paper, photographs that separate the chapters “There are three things to be done with a woman, love her, suffer for her or turn her into literature”. These will all be covered. Part categories, part adventure, the prose is a thick, cryptic, poetic confession of confusion, honesty and love. It volleys between the metaphysical and the sexual. It travels all over escaping from itself. It is melancholia held in your hands. Wistful but sure of decisions. A writer I would like to read more of.
You can read more about Elizabeth’s writing and photography here.
Abbie Foxton is an original cut and paste mistress and old school paper sniffer. Fluent in kitchen French, if she’s not playing with knives, you will find her down the pub, tearing up the felt, sabotaging jukeboxes while discussing the eleventh dimension. If all else fails, you’ll find her reviews and photography here and there. Her love for zines has never waned, she just forgot they existed.