Arts

U of O students contribute to minority-focused zines

Photo: Serena Sodhi

A new zine rack available at Café Alt on the University of Ottawa campus is looking to showcase work by members of the LGBTQ+ community and people of colour.

When someone feels like they don’t belong or have been marginalized in society, all they really want is someone to show them that they are not alone. As our society continues to leave out and brush aside those who don’t fit the norm, many people are turning to alternative media that they can find comfort in. This is where zines come in.

Zines are self-published, small-circulation books or websites. They can include anything from poetry to comics, and have become a slow but significant trend in the online community. Zines can be about anything, but the topics are often things that are not well-covered in the mainstream media.

Lee Pepper is a zine distributer in the Ottawa area. Recently, they (Pepper has asked us to use gender-neutral pronouns) were approached by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO)-owned Café Alt to create a zine rack in the café. The rack mainly features locally-made zines produced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of colour, and others who feel that their voices are underrepresented. Almost all of the zines on Pepper’s rack are sold for under $5, which is split between the writers, Pepper, and the hosting business.

“People are really, really, hungry for that kind of representation… It’s hard when you don’t feel represented and feel like you don’t have a voice but other people are also feeling that and people are waiting to hear those stories,” said Pepper.

One of those people is Brittany Neron, a U of O student currently working on her M.A. in women’s studies. Neron began making zines two years ago after attending The Ottawa Zine Off at Pressed, a local café.

“I write a perzine, which is just like a zine of personal topics, and generally mine gravitate around gender stuff, sexuality, mental health, sobriety and addictions,” she said.

Neron is currently working on a series of zines called “Sad Weekends,” with the third issue currently on Pepper’s zine rack at Café Alt.

“My most recent one, number three, is mostly dealing with supporting a loved one with an addiction, and my upcoming one is still kind of undecided,” said Neron. “I’m thinking about talking a little bit more in depth about transitioning from student life to post-student life, and that identity crisis that comes with not being a student anymore after being a student forever basically.”

Pepper came about the idea of creating a zine rack in Ottawa when they and a friend saw one at a café in Montreal. “I really like zines but I’d always sort of gotten them through mail order… or bought them online, and it’s really cool to browse them in person” they said.

When Pepper returned to Ottawa, their friend encouraged them to start a zine rack here so more people would have access to the small-circulation books. The first rack that Pepper put up was at Pressed on Gladstone Avenue in October 2012. Gabba Hey, a concert venue and record store on City Centre Avenue, was the next spot to put up one of Pepper’s zine racks.

The decision to start selling the zines at Café Alt came from Pepper’s friendship with the manager of the café, Gary Franks. Pepper has always been a big fan of the café, saying that it’s “always been really strong in the arts community,” and despite not attending the University of Ottawa themselves, they believed that it would be an opportune spot to put up a rack.

Pepper’s zines allow readers to learn about topics that they may not be able to learn about anywhere else, all with a personal touch. And for those who are looking for content that represents them, they can finally find something that makes them feel less alone.