The upcoming New Orleans Comics and Zine Fest
(NOCAZ) is further proof that zines, a catch-all term for self-published and often small-circulation print periodicals, are just too scrappy to die. They’ve been part of the New Orleans cultural scene since long before the term was coined, though the format hit its subcultural stride nationwide in the '90s through the mid-2000s. While most of the names from our city's zine golden age have moved on to other endeavors, Hope Amico (Keep Loving, Keep Fighting
) continues to create beautiful and intricate zines, and the New Orleans underground metal/punk zine Paranoize
, begun in 1989, just published their 35th issue. Chainbreaker
, a DIY bike repair guidebook, sells briskly in major bookstores nationwide more than a decade since it first saw print as a New Orleans zine.
Our city’s most extraordinary zine-related institution is Robb Roemershauser's Aboveground Zine Library, a collection of more than 15,000 zines from all over the world that spans six decades. It remains in limbo since being gentrified out of the space at 511 Marigny, but Roemershauser has contributed to smaller collections of zines now stocked at some branches of the New Orleans Public Library
(NOPL), and over the last few months NOPL has been hosting make-your-own-comics-and-zine workshops for kids.
The latter are part of the buildup to the inaugural NOCAZ, which takes place Nov. 15 at the NOPL's Main Branch (read Kate Watson's preview
). NOCAZ describes itself as "a space for self-published artists and thinkers to put their work out... and be able to reach other people without the constraints and expense of the commercial publishing industry."
There are multiple events around NOCAZ, including a zine reading Thursday night featuring several local zine creators. One of those, Andru Okun, has just published an ambitious narrative zine called No Place for a Vacation
. It recounts his experiences on a tumultuous 2012 Middle East trip that began with a free "Birthright" tour of Israel designed to make the oft-criticized state appealing to young American Jews. Okun broke off and traveled on his own through Jerusalem into Palestine, where he volunteered at a refugee camp and participated in a rally against the Israeli occupation that came under attack by the Israeli army. As if that weren't enough, Okun then took a surreal sojourn into areas of post-revolution Egypt that had previously been tourist hotspots.
It's a compelling read, elevated above travelogue not only by its events but by Okun's engaging mix of thoughtfulness and humor. No Place for a Vacation
's use of a personal lens to explore larger issues make it a good example of zinedom's enduring possibilities. I spoke with Okun about his zine, his upcoming readings and NOCAZ itself.