Kari Tervo is a California zinester (Shards of Glass in Your Eye!) and blogger (Pop Culture Beast’s Zine Blog), as well as a clinical psychologist. When I saw that she was organizing a project called Zines For Troops! my interest was piqued! How big could the zine audience in the military possibly be? I had to get the dirt. It’s my pleasure to welcome Kari to TFH.
Interview by Josh Medsker
TFH: What gave you the inspiration to start this project? The juxtaposition of zines and troops seems so odd! The zine-scene has traditionally been very anti-authoritarian… Discuss….
KT: There’s a lot packed into this question! I’ll do my best to explain. And thank you for asking about Zines For Troops! For my day job, I’m a licensed clinical psychologist. During the course of my training, I worked with mental health services patients at three Veterans’ Administration hospitals. Those daily opportunities allowed me to understand military members and veterans on an individual level. I think counter-culture communities sometimes stigmatize military members as “other,” but every soldier/sailor/pilot/Marine has unique reasons for participating in the military (like preferring structured environments or wanting to promote democratic ideals). I have come to understand that many young people join the military with a positive future for themselves and the world in mind.
These factors also inspired me…
A desire to help military members connect to the ideals they may have joined with: Zines are an expression protected by the First Amendment, which military members have sworn to uphold, even if they disagree with the expression.
Zines help military members “meet” the fellow citizens they have sworn to protect. The military is behind the times with regard to social progression. Zines often represent the experiences, concerns, and ideas of people that the military is slowly coming to respect (e.g., gay people and people who have been sexually assaulted). I thought it would be beneficial to present these ideas to people who might not have direct experience with them, leading to increased empathy and understanding. From the perspective of a clinical psychologist, I know that satisfying leisure time is a cornerstone of mental health. It can be fun and relaxing to read a zine! That can provide an emotional buffer for when things get rough, and feeling connected to another human being can be healing.
I’ve learned that the day-to-day reality of military life does not often involve grand transmission of democratic ideals, but danger, tension, and boredom. I want to help military members/injured veterans relax with the excellent reading material the zine community produces. Maybe they’ll be inspired to make their own zines, and we’ll learn more about their experiences, too!
TFH: What has the response been so far? From the soldiers themselves… from your fellow zinesters…
KT: Some people have said, “I’m not comfortable supporting a project that benefits the military.” Others have been happy to donate one zine, or ten zines, or, in one case, 50 zines! I think a lot of zinesters see the benefit of sharing their ideas with people who might not otherwise be exposed to them. Or maybe they just want to help out a human being who is stressing out in a hospital or an inhospitable environment. I’ve been really jazzed by the response to this project, which underscores my understanding that zinesters tend to be empathic and supportive of people overall, not only people who are just like them.
I have a confidentiality agreement with Operation Paperback (which provides the infrastructure and support necessary to operate this project). Hence, I’m not allowed to speak specifically about the recipients, but people are pleased!
TFH: Are there any particular zines (titles?) or topics that the military won’t let you send? Or do they censor things as they come in, etc…? I imagine people are desperate for things to read, wherever they are stationed.
KT: Zines for Troops! operates under the infrastructural auspices of Operation Paperback, which provides free reading materials to military members and injured veterans. I’m managing this project under their policies, so I don’t know what any particular military policy might be. I won’t send racist materials or pornography (like, don’t send a nudie mag). From over 400 donations, I’ve only rejected one zine for donation. It had a Goatse photo (if you don’t know about it already, DO NOT GOOGLE GOATSE!).
I think there are probably a lot of misunderstandings about people who join the military, and maybe people who join the military have misunderstandings about people who are attracted to zine-making. I hope that Zines for Troops! can help to correct misunderstandings. I also want this project to foster enjoyment, communication, understanding, and relaxation for human beings in tough situations. Thanks, zine community, for supporting Zines for Troops!
DO YOU WANT TO DONATE TO ZINES FOR TROOPS? Participants receive two custom buttons and their name/zine title on an Honor Roll!
Send donations to:
Kari Tervo, Zines for Troops! P.O. Box 7831 Beverly Hills, CA 90212