The NYC Feminist Zinefest was a joy to attend. This year was the 6th annual and my first time attending, though as usual with such events I am not really sure how to explain the fact that I hadn’t been going every year. What was I thinking? Had I been asleep? We may never know. But it was awesome, and now in future years I’ll know and go.
The fest took place in two linked rooms and a hallway on the 4th floor of a building in Barnard, and the whole set up made me nostalgic for the MoCCA Fest of the early 2000s, when it was full of hand-produced minis and people excitedly talking about their work and their craft.
In the hallway leading to the rooms of exhibitors, tables of organizers and volunteers with button machines offered info zines about the event, optional nametags, and pronoun declaration buttons. Since the Zinefest is free, this was a laid back entryway rather than a bottleneck. The two rooms of exhibitors were both bustling when I got there, with one much smaller than the other, but no division that I could discern based on content. Both rooms had a lot of windows, a lot of light, and a lot of people.
This was a space that worked intentionally on being accessible and welcoming to a wide range of creators and readers. I think the handmade aesthetic of many of the goods and the free entry, allied with the pay-what-you-want mindset and clearly stated policies of inclusiveness made it a joyful space full of people who felt both welcomed and welcoming. In all the conversations I participated in, people were open and interested as well as interesting.
Starting in the smaller of the two rooms, I was excited to get “Voted off the Island,” a zine about living in New York City and elsewhere by Jordan Alam, who I learned is not only a writer, educator, and editor, but also a doula. Alam’s work is evocative and personal, feeling very appropriate for the medium of hand-stapled half-page sized minis.
Also in that room, I had the experience of making a hat at a craft table with Rica Takashima when a woman came up and began talking to her excitedly in Japanese. They had a happy discussion, the woman bought Takashima’s graphic novel, and then Takashima explained to me that the other woman had been excited to meet her, because she was a Gender Studies professor in Japan, and Takashima’s work has been foundational in the lesbian manga scene.
Moving on to the big room, it was easy to feel overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, and while the event was billed as all ages (and I did see people with kids and babies there), I was glad that I had not brought my toddler and felt lucky that I did not have any mobility issues due to the press of the crowd. There were some individual tables I didn’t see, because the crowds around them hadn’t let up on any of my laps around the room. I bet their stuff was great, but I was pretty satisfied with what I did get a chance to see.
Highlights included the table for the Red Sweater Zine Collective, which gathers materials of creators who can’t all necessarily attend fests, and from whom I purchased a tiny matchbox mini about the alt-right.
Since I’m a college English professor who studies Harry Potter, I was also especially excited to purchase “All Was Well: An Analysis of Therapeutic Techniques for PTSD in Harry Potter,” a zine that Sawyer Lovett created from his BA thesis.
Finally, I rounded off my visit getting to meet two tablers, Jayla Patton and Anne Schwan, who were here at the zinefest for the first time as well. From Pittsburgh, they are both active in the art and comics world there and gave me some kind advice about cool stuff to do when I visit Pittsburgh for the first time next month.
Overall, this last conversation felt like an endorsement of the idea that an event such as this builds a community. Anyone can make a zine, and anyone can participate in a zine scene.
On my way out, a cheerful volunteer handed me a button, saying, “Do you want this? It’s my favorite one.” The button has a picture of open scissors and the words, “Don’t be mean—Make a zine.” I think that is good advice.