Arizona Zine Shop Counters Delivers Bans With Inclusive Deals

PHOENIX — In a small zine store in Phoenix, Charissa Lucille takes the pulse of political news, informed in part by the zines that cross her desk every day. Lucille runs the Wasted Ink Zine Distro (WIZD), where people come together to read, create, and buy a myriad of micropublications that amplify marginalized voices. “A zine just fell on my desk that talks about how to recognize fascism in Arizona,” Lucille told Hyperallergic in late August. “The subjects we see really tell us a lot about what people see and experience,” they said.

Arizona made national headlines in August after four Trump allies and election deniers, including gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake, won primary contests. Bills enacted in Arizona in 2022 will limit what teachers can talk about in class and require schools to publish the titles of library books purchased after Jan. 1, 2023.

Larissa Lucille, August 2022 (photo by Larissa Lucille)

For decades, DIY publications have reflected the times, according to Milo Miller, co-founder of the Milwaukee, Wis.-based Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP), which was started in 2003 as a way to preserve and share queer zines. “Zines are a medium through which activism is captured and codified in anything that’s in the air,” Miller said.

Today, that zeitgeist includes book bans and challenges rooted in conservative ideology, rhetoric and politics, which often target queer gender communities and people of color. Books removed from Texas schools in recent months, for example, have included Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe and Toni Morrison The bluest eye.

A Sunday afternoon at Wasted Ink Zine Distro, August 2022 (Photo by Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

Wasted Ink focuses on titles exploring BIPOC, LGBTGIA+, disabled or chronically ill and neurodiverse identities, according to Lucille, who describes herself as a queer, disabled and neurodiverse zine creator. The shop represents more than 350 manufacturers. About half are based in Arizona and about 10% live in other countries like Australia, Germany, Indonesia and Japan.

Lucille sells over 600 titles in-store and approximately 200 titles online. The selection changes as certain zines sell out and new zines are added to the mix. Recent offerings have included Butches in Bloom: An Illustrated Field Guide by Liuxing Johnston, Trans Toilet Rampage by Birch Rosen, Anxiety linked to climate change: the zine! by Sarah Beth Kaye, Artists’ insecurities by Sabrina S., and Beautiful Brown, like me by Kuwa Jasiri Indomela.

Tracks spotted at Wasted Ink Zine Distro, August 2022 (Photo by Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

The store also houses a library of zines, where people can explore over 1,000 works created from the 1980s onwards. They are organized by categories that include art, feminism, politics, queer, and more. On one rack they have free zines on topics like abortion and unions.

Wasted Ink is part of a cultural center called Nurture House, which also houses the bilingual Palabras bookstore, Pachanga Press, Abalone Mountain Press, an art gallery and a small self-help garden.

For Lucille, who founded the zine store in 2015 and moved to its current location on the outskirts of the Roosevelt Row arts district in early 2021, news of the books being removed from school and community libraries reinforces the role of zines in contemporary society. “Pen and ink have revolutionized movement, culture and information sharing, and that’s especially true for zines because they’re unedited,” Lucille said. “They are extremely needed right now.”

Zine displayed in the Wasted Ink Zine Distro retail space (Photo by Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

Even so, brick-and-mortar zine stores are relatively rare. More often, people access publications online through libraries, academic collections, or other collections. Sometimes they come across zines placed around town during literary guerrilla actions, or find them through local zine festivals such as the PHX Zine Fest and ABQ Zine Fest happening in the southwest this fall.

Rosemarie Dombrowski, a Phoenix-based poet who teaches a course at Arizona State University on the history of radical zines, agrees that they are powerful tools for self-expression and activism. In 2015, she founded rinky dink press, specializing in poetry micro-zines. “I’ve seen a tremendous amount of direct action themes over the past few years, including guides to protesting and thwarting police scrutiny,” said Dombrowski, who was Phoenix’s first Poet Laureate. “We have a really unique zine culture here, mostly with Latino and Indigenous creators,” she said of the city’s zine culture. “We also have lots of body-positive and LGBTQIA+ zines, and great comics.” Even so, Dombrowski fears that the more underground and groundbreaking aspects of zine culture will diminish as the genre becomes more mainstream. “I wish it had looked a little rougher,” she said.

Section of a Wasted Ink Zine library shelf (photo by Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

Whatever form they take, zines foster conversation and community, according to Anushka Joshi, editor-in-chief of GEN-ZiNE in New York, a media collective she founded with a print-only zine in 2018. “There’s something about knowing that there are other people who feel the same as you,” Joshi said. “Zines can help bring those people together.” For Wasted Ink, making those connections takes many forms. , including in-store workshops and awareness-raising activities in schools and libraries.

In the future, Lucille plans to add more zines for young people. They also collaborate on a creative space where creators can have their work printed and shipped. “Zines,” Lucille explained, “are great tools for sharing personal stories, especially for people living on the margins of society and those who have been historically silenced.”

Shelf with free titles at Wasted Ink Zine Distro, August 2022 (Photo by Lynn Trimble/Hyperallergic)

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