Culture | The zine scene with Amber Dearest

St. Henri's "Culture Slut" discusses DIY print media

Amber Dearest does zines. Not magazines, but zines – a concept barely on the fringe of the radar of mainstream publications. Yet, as unheard of as they may seem, these minute print platforms promote the discussion of some of today’s most influential and controversial challenges and ideas. Dearest’s themes include feminist, queer, and anarchist content, with pages photocopied into a miniature, often homemade magazine or book. In an email interview with The Daily, Dearest divulged the ins-and-outs of the zine community.

“I’ve never found a succinct answer that I’m satisfied with,” said Dearest, when asked to define a ‘zine’, “anyone can make one, [and] on any topic they choose.”

Dearest started creating zines when she was 17 years old.

“[My twin and I] were trading with others that we’d met online, or through fliers that were distributed with other zines. My print run grew as I continued to write […].” said Dearest.

Ten years have passed since then, and Dearest has now moved to Montreal from her small hometown of Lindsay, Ontario. After a decade of work, her passion for zines remains undiminished.

“For all of the small crises that I experience over having made public so many personal details about my life, my mental health, my addiction, et cetera, I’ve received countless letters from people telling me that it was via my zines that they learned about feminism (and terms like girl-hate and slut-shaming), and found the motivation to tell their own stories.”

In addition to making zines, Dearest runs a distro (an alternative press distribution center) called Fight Boredom.

“[The distro is] a means of promoting and distributing zines that were meaningful to me, that I wanted to share with others,” said Dearest. “I’ve made many close friends through writing zines and letters, and travel frequently to zinefests, where I table with my distro, experience new cities, and get the chance to converse for real with people that I’ve only known through writing. Running a distro sometimes gives me even greater joy than making my own zines, because I’m able to share the work of so many people that I love.”

In further support of zine culture, Dearest also hosts a zine residency program.

Dearest said, “Basically, someone comes to stay here for two weeks, and in that time, they make a zine, and throw a launch party.”

While she is not working at her distro or working on her Culture Slut zines, Dearest volunteers on the Sidetracks Team at the Ste-Émilie Skillshare in St. Henri. She is also a collective member at the Union For Gender Empowerment at McGill.

“When I’m not [sitting] at my kitchen table with my typewriter and a cup of tea, I can be found riding my bike, going to punk shows, karaoke-ing my heart out, reading Anaïs Nin’s journals on the metro, participating in pharmaceutical studies to avoid soul-crushing wage labour, and scouring the city for free food.”

There is no doubt that Dearest is as far from bored as anyone can be. And sure enough, as noted on her website, Dearest’s theory is that “only boring people get bored.”

Dearest said, “I love what I do every single day when I check the mail to find letters from friends and strangers, and new zines to read.”

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