The year is 1994 and alternative is in. But not for alternative girl Tabitha Denton; she hates her life. She is uninterested in boys, lonely, and sidelined by former friends at her suburban high school. When she picks up a zine at a punk concert, she finds an escape—an advertisement for a Riot Grrrl meet-up.
At the meeting, Tabitha finds girls who are more like her and a place to belong. But just as Tabitha is settling in with her new friends and beginning to think she understands herself, eighteen-year-old Jackie Hardwick walks into a meeting and changes her world forever. The out-and-proud Jackie is unlike anyone Tabitha has ever known. As her feelings for Jackie grow, Tabitha begins to learn more about herself and the racial injustices of the punk scene, but to be with Jackie, she must also come to grips with her own privilege and stand up for what’s right.
We’re excited to welcome Carrie Pack on on From Top to Bottom Reviews today!
Zines were the original social media
It seems like everyone has a blog. But back in 1994, if you wanted to share the random thoughts from your mind with others, you had a zine. It was an easy, cheap way to “blog” before anyone really knew what that term meant. In the ‘90s, the Internet was still in its infancy, but photocopiers were everywhere. As a high school or college student, it was guaranteed that your library would have this cheap (sometimes free) way for you to cut and paste your way to a small, folded booklet of your own work. You might not be so lucky when it came to the internet.
It wouldn’t have been uncommon for a high school to have multiple zines being disseminated through the halls. I can remember at least two friends in my mid-sized high school who had their own zines. I think we were attracted to this format because it was less controlled than the high school paper or yearbook and much more personal. Zinesters could be political, openly queer, anti-establishment; they could use language and topics that a school’s mainstream publications couldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Zines were subversive and underground, but they could also be fluff and drivel. Some cut pictures from magazines and wrote commentary on how women’s bodies were commodified. Others talked about the boys (and yes, girls) that they dated. Zinesters wrote poems and songs, essays and rants, screeds and manifestos. They drew comics and wrote novels. It was a hodgepodge of creativity.
Sound familiar? It should. I see this same stuff online nowadays. Whether it’s a Tumblr post about “sea pancakes” or a Twitter thread about rape culture, it’s all reminiscent of zines I’ve read. Now we can sell our art online, self publish novels and poetry, share random thoughts on a whim or start a revolution.
As all other media before it, social media has forced change upon us creatives. Before Etsy or Society6, the DIY movement had few outlets to sell beyond small craft fairs. Before Facebook and Instagram, we used scrapbooks and Polaroids to commemorate friendships and vacations. Before Twitter and Tumblr we wrote zines and journals. Now all of these creative outlets have merged online, but they all exist because of our need to share and influence others.
But zine culture in its original form hasn’t gone away. Just this past May, I went to a zinefest in Asheville, N.C., and there are other similar events all over the world. People are back to making their own handcrafted booklets full of essays, comics, songs, and poems. The only difference is it’s possible to reach more people than before, and we can collaborate in ways we never dreamed possible in the ‘90s.
In a nutshell, zines are all grown up.
Kate props herself on her elbow and looks at me. “Are you questioning your sexuality, Tabitha?” It sounds very after-school special to me, but Kate is dead serious.
“I uh… Well…”
“It’s okay,” she says. Her smile has turned into a smirk. “I have an idea. You don’t have to answer. Just close your eyes.”
My heart is about to beat right out of my chest, but I comply. I don’t have a choice. My body is acting on its own. I no longer have free will. I’m only doing what I’m told. I can feel Kate coming closer, but I don’t move, not a muscle, not an eyelash. I am frozen in time, waiting. For what I’m not sure.
Then her lips brush mine. Softly at first and then more firmly. My whole body is feverish as she cups my face in her hand. I don’t know what else to do so I try to kiss back, but she’s gone. When I open my eyes, she’s still hovering over me; her hand covers her mouth. She’s blushing, too.
Neither of us says anything, and Kate stands up and takes the tape out of the stereo. “I should probably get this back to Cherie.” She looks at me lying on the floor. “I gotta pee. I’ll meet you outside.”
She climbs the stairs, and I lie there like a dumbstruck statue. I bring my hand to my lips, but they feel unchanged. And yet something is completely, irrevocably, unavoidably different. Something so life-changing, I don’t know what to do with the information.
Plain and simple: I have a crush on Kate.
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About the Author:
Never one for following the “rules,” Carrie Pack is a published author of books in multiple genres, including Designs on You, In the Present Tense and the forthcoming Grrrls on the Side (2017). Her novels focus on characters finding themselves in their own time—something she experienced for herself when she came out as bisexual recently. She’s passionate about positive representation in her writing and has been a feminist before she knew what the word meant, thanks to a progressive and civic-minded grandmother. Coincidentally that’s also where she got her love of red lipstick and desserts. Carrie lives in Florida, or as she likes to call it, “America’s Wang.”