Interview with a Zinester: Hazel Newlevant!

We’ve got Hazel Newlevant’s interview up next! Check it out and find them on Tumblr as well.

Photo of a dark-haired zinester wearing a yellow cardigan and writing in a notebook.

Photo of a dark-haired zinester wearing a yellow cardigan and writing in a notebook.

Kindly give us a short description of yourself and the work you do.

I’m a Portland-raised, Queens-based cartoonist, and I make comics about things like queerness, relationships, music, and inequality—concurrent or consecutive! My comics tend to be “creative nonfiction,” either about the meaningful moments in my own life, or the lives of others that I find inspiring. My most recognizable work is If This Be Sin, a collection of comics about queer women and music. There’s a biography of the 1920s drag king Gladys Bentley, a profile of lesbian rockstars Wendy and Lisa (of Purple Rain fame), and story about a modern-day blues dance competition, based on my own experiences with social dancing.

How did you get introduced to zines? Were you influenced by anyone?

I first discovered zines when I was a teenager and worked at Reading Frenzy, a bookstore in Portland, OR. Local zine-makers were always coming in to consign their zines, so I read a lot of stuff on the job. I was really inspired by the mini-comics that people were drawing and printing themselves, and by the idea of making this perfect little pamphlet that’s just how you want it. Comics are my medium of choice, but as a reader, I’m interested in perzines, instructional zines, fanzines—the whole gamut.
What does it mean to do “feminist zine-making”? Does feminism appear in your work (explicitly or implicitly)?

I think feminist zine-making is about creating zines with an underlying consciousness about gender inequality and the unique challenges that women face. Zines are a powerful way for marginalized people to share their experiences and connect with others, and I’ve learned a ton by reading zines by women with disabilities, women of color, and women of different life experiences from my own in general.
What is your favorite zine or piece of mail art? Do you like any specific style/part of a zine?

That’s the most difficult question by far, when there’s so many to choose from! Some of my most favorite mini-comics include the series Zine City Comix by Kinoko Evans and Madtown High by Whit Taylor. Zine City Comix is about cute shamanic animal-beings interacting with technology, while Madtown High is about being a mixed-race kid going to high school in New Jersey. In many ways, they couldn’t be more different, but there’s a kindness and sincerity to both that I appreciate.

If you could sum up your zinester life in a kitchen appliance, what appliance would it be?

Food processor, turning the basil leaves of life into a delicious pesto.

Finally, who are some of the other zinesters you’re excited to see at this year’s feminist zine fest?

My buds Laura Lannes and Annie Mok will be at the zine fest, both of whom interrogate gender in interesting ways through their comics. I met the editors of From the Root when I was visiting Montreal, and I’m excited that they’re bringing their excellent WOC-focused literary journal to the US. The rest of the exhibitors are unfamiliar to me, so I’m looking forward to discovering everyone’s work!

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