By Brian Dunlap
Last weekend the sixth Annual L.A. Zine Fest took place at the California Market Center in downtown L.A. Two halls in the buildings basement were packed with Ziners selling and promoting their wares. The DIY spirit and the necessity of marginalized stories and issues permeated the atmosphere. These are the main reasons that pushed the more than 200 exhibitors to pen and draw their necessary stories. Stories that face an extremely difficult up hill battle to get out into the mainstream. Hence the special insider-outsider role they hold in the book world.
Some heavy hitters of L.A.’s DIY word were present, from Razorcake, to Suicidal Goldfish, the nonprofit DSTLArts selling their students self-published work, the profits going to support their arts mentorship programs. Even one of L.A.’s literary presses Writ Large had its own table, mostly selling its small chapbooks from it’s Small Print imprint, all proceeds going to various social justice charities like Black Lives Matter.
However, despite Zine Fest’s eclectic nature from exhibitors like Mujeres de Maiz, Los Angeles Queer Resistance, Asuka Ohsawa, Skid Row Zine and the Feminist Library on Wheels, I was personally excited to see Written Voice. Written Voice is the literary journal that I helped co-founded 17 years ago at my old high school, Venice High. The two seniors manning the booth were wonderful to talk to and they couldn’t believe they were meeting someone who helped start it all. Before I left the Written Voice table, I was told one of the two seniors, Andrea Lo, has a poem in one of the issues that was for sale. Right then I had to support her and Written Voice, remembering myself as a senior working on, and publishing work in, the journal. That issue with Andrea’s poem, sits next to me now.
As the day moved into mid-afternoon L.A. Zine Fest grew more and more crowded, more Ziners making connections, discovering new powerful words and comics, some crossing cultures and fans engaging in it all. The only downside was that, in culturally diverse Southern California, Zine Fest was still mostly white, a reflection of the larger Zine making community.
Lastly, I want to highlight one Zine and Ziner doing incredibly important work. Brenda Montaño and Zine Rasquache. Brenda has recently returned to the Inland Empire, Riverside. This Xicana produces zines highlighting and promoting Chicano history and their experiences that too often go ignored and unheard even by the youth of their community until they enter college. Brenda aims to challenge the stifling of creativity evident in the mainstream media. As Brenda writes on her site, “the goal is always to tell the stories that are not being told and to shed light on the realities that have purposely been silenced and destroyed.” Lastly, I want to highlight one Zine and Ziner doing incredibly important work. Brenda Montaño and Zine Rasquache. I couldn’t agree more.
As we spoke at Zine Fest, we shared our love for the powerful literature of Gloria Anzeldua and Cherríe Moraga, her love of the seminal book Revolt of the Cockroach People by Oscar Zeta Acosta, and me introducing her to my mentor and L.A. Chicano writer Alex Espinoza as we bridged cultures. Breanda Montaño’s website is www.zinerasquache.tumbler.com
See you next year L.A. Zine Fest.