Today’s International Zine Month activity is to buy, share, or read zines from a country other than your own, which has just so nicely happened to land on a zine review day. So today I bring you a review of a zine by the US zinemaker Nichole.
Pieces 14 is a US ¼ sized black and white perzine about mental illness, constructions and coping creations, and learning to take control.
“Everything about this is disjointed and, in places, extremely brief… but it will at least exist. That is something positive.”
Sometimes while I may want to read a zine straight away, I know I can’t. I know I need to keep it unread for a while until I can give it the reading time and space – both physically and mentally – that it deserves. Copies of Pieces always fall into this category, and, knowing something of how much it took Nichole to create Pieces 14, it was especially true of this issue.
This feeling is emphasised right from the start, as Nichole calls this zine many things from self-indulgent to frightening and intimate. She reveals herself as utterly vulnerable and unsure – questioning (as I think many a perzine writer has) the motivation in making in the first place. And yet this is exactly why I see Nichole as so strong for sharing.
After the opening, Nichole moves onto Shadow Work: the process by which Nichole reclaims the parts of her she finds unacceptable, immoral, and ugly (and a concept I find incredibly intriguing). She writes about the three ways to approach the practise and how most people seek to avoid these self-truths.
From there we travel with Nichole as she explores many things under the umbrella of Self and Identity. With a focus on mental health issues, Nichole touches on thoughts and fears around not being ‘sick enough’ to seek help while at the same time fearing being ‘sick enough’ to have help forced upon you. The frantic search to find meaning and definition while not letting anyone in to help you with the search lest you become a burden,
Counselling, sexuality, fear, shame, the masks we wear, and much more are parts of Nichole’s mental journey looking back and pondering forward about life. A huge part of the writing focuses on the creations we create to cope and how these creations can be just as complex as we are. That they can both harm and hurt. Though, while I type that, I feel like that is a rather ‘light’ description of the contents of this zine.
“I was so obsessed with being perfect and being a good girl that I didn’t know what to do with all the “bad” stuff.”
As per usual with an issue of Pieces, I could go on and on about how much I identify with what Nichole has written. There were times I had to stop and go back to re-read paragraphs because I was so eager that I started reading too fast for my brain to keep up.
Nichole’s layouts are always appealing with just enough elements for variety and visual appeal without taking away from the important subject at hand. With a natural affinity for images of butterflies and clocks, I fall just as easily into the visuals Nichole chooses as well as the words.
An especially powerful part of this zine is Nichole’s acknowledgments of her constructs and the importance of distinguishing what is a part of you – what is something you have created within yourself. Taking control of your own creations is often not anywhere as easy as it would seem to be on paper. Taking back your power sometimes means taking it back from the pieces of yourself.
“Waging war against yourself is tiring.”
Pieces is a zine series I have long enjoyed reading and gained more understanding from than I can really say. If enjoying all the zines that came before a particular one is a bias, then I most certainly have it with this, the 14th in the series. That being said, I think this issue of Pieces stands alongside one that Nichole actually doesn’t print anymore. It’s an issue in which Nichole challenges herself to not only examine the topics in the zine but the challenge of putting it all down on the page.
As per usual, I’m grateful that she has done so. Pieces 14 and the issues before it have and continue to give me the courage to talk about things that I’ve dealt with for nearly three decades and never told a soul…
To put it simply, get Pieces 14 and all the ones that came before it.