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The East Village Inky

An interview with Ayun Halliday
from Brooklyn, New York, USA

by Elke Zobl

October 2004

The East Village Inky -- in which the Hoosier-born mother of a 3-thumbed seven-year-old and beguiling though no longer entirely blameless Milo manages to issue forth another installment in the ongoing saga of their lives in New York City despite such obstacles as whining, summer vacation and the Republican National Convention. A paucity of negative space! Obscurities Reviewed! aquarium-tarian recipes and naked people dancing in a wholesome manner! (http://www.ayunhalliday.com/inky/)

Ayun Halliday is the author of The Big Rumpusand No Touch Monkey! And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late and editrix of the zine East Village Inky (winning the 2002 Firecracker Alternative Book Award!). Her newest book, Job Hopper, will be published in the spring of 2005.

Her work has also been published in Hip Mama, Bust, Bitch, Brain, Child, on NPR and in more anthologies than one can shake a stick at without
angling a participle. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.

In the following please read an interview we did via email where Ayun shares her views on zine making, mama zines and feminism. Many thanks for taking time to do this interview, Ayun!!

Enjoy. And: Read Ayun's fabulous zine and books!


 

 

I (as a child-less grrrl) enjoyed reading your acclaimed book The Big Rumpus as well as your zine The East Village Inky, mainly because it gave me a 'real' picture of motherhood, one where I could see myself fitting in. Do you think that this keeping-it-real and focused on everyday life makes your zine and book so successful and popular?
definitely - but also that there are parts of my life that are not so everyday for readers in the sticks - the tony awards, going to nyc theater, the multicultural / urban aspects ... hopefully it's a good mix of the familiar and the exotic, told in an accessible style. I think it helps that there are the same characters interacting in every issue. and also hopefully it's funny - the foibles like lice and stuff are played for laughs even though in life they SUUUUUUUUUck!

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
keeping a creative life alive - and now that I have a 'career' it helps to promote the books in a very rewarding close-to-the-ground way. I like casual correspondence with folks who feel like they know me to some degree - the thrill of receiving mail. also as I fail to maintain babybooks and take photos - this is a good record of inky's a and milo's childhood. and something that's not a huge goal of mine, but sure is flattering fall out is that others have started their own zines, figuring that if I can do it they can too.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
all of the above. I also love the idea of homemade, cheap, do it yourself, populist art.

What are some of the zines you read and admire?
Hausfrau by Nicole Chaison.
A Beautiful Final Tribute by Bee Lavender
anything by Moe Bowstern
The Assassin and the Whiner by Carrie McNinch
Not My Small Diary edited by Delaine Derry Greene
I also like punk do-it-yourself zines Kyle Bravo puts some out... The last I saw was How 2 Zine and he's compiling a book that will be published soon by Microcosm called Making Stuff and Doing Things: A
Collection of DIY Guides to Doing Just About Everything.

 

Can you describe a little bit how you managed to write the book in such a short time? Can you please give us some advice on how to find time to do it all?
i have a very lax attitude toward housekeeping and, as you can see, the rules of capitalization and punctuation unless the situation absolutely demands proper usage. I don't put on make up or do my hair. basically, I write, cook and hang out with the kids. I have been writing for nearly two decades now - and when I was in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (see http://www.neofuturists.com) I had to turn writing around very fast - rehearse on tuesday, perform on friday - i did a lot of writing on the bus on my way to rehearsal. Unlike my husband, Greg Kotis, who agonizes over every word, I've never been much of a one for endless polish, rehearsal and draft. I'm satisfied with imperfection.

 

I am observing a current boom of mama zines - from punk to alternative to radical mama zines to feminist parenting to feminist homeschooling - in the USA. Why do you think is this? And what has come and could come out of this?
well, I think hipmama has a lot to do with that, and now the mamaphonic web site which actually has a discussion board for zine making mamas. I think women who never saw zines were given gift subscriptions to some of the early ones (hipmama, the future generation, yard wide yarns, the east village inky) and wanted to express themselves too - for some it's a way to combine political activism with parenthood (placenta, baby bloc), for some it's a way to network (the edgycatin' mama and other home school zines) and for some it's just a way to keep from getting caught in the slough of despond that is always a danger when you're stuck at home with a small kid, exiled from your former identity.





Do you feel part of a zine community or network, nationally or/and internationally? If yes, what does the alternative mothering/parenting/feminist zine community or network mean to you?


as much as I want to be. I try not to get involved with web boards these days b/c it's just too much of a time-suck, and because it's fun, i'll procrastinate from real deadlines. I'm grateful whenever people take the time to send me their zines - the demands of motherhood
coupled with a natural tendency toward sloth often mean I wouldn't discover these publications if left to my own devices. I enjoy reading reviews of zines, including my own. It's a bit tricky when it comes to reviewing zines in my zine b/c there are some that I'd give an E for effort, but can't in good conscience recommend to my readers b/c I myself wasn't much grabbed by them. and I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings... so zine reviews are not a regular part of the east village inky. BUT! yes, I think the proliferation of zines published by women with children is a wonderful thing - it offers an alternative to mainstream parenting rags which are
not only boring, rarely open minded, and push this image of parents as people who couldn't possibly be as interesting as people who DON'T have children.

 

I am very interested in the international zine community. Have you ever heard of a mama or feminist parenting zine from another country? If yes, can you please tell me more about it?
I can't remember. i do get zines from other countries from time to time, and some are put out by women, but usually, it's just one issue that reaches me. I can't remember if any of em involved people's kids.

Do you consider mama zines in particular and grrrl zines in general as an important part of a social movement? Do you think zines as everyday feminist practices can effect meaningful social and political change, or do they have significance mainly in personal lives? In other words, do mama and grrrl zines change the way people think, or is this just wishful thinking?
yes. i don't know if it's a social movement, but it's definitely a social expression.

Do you think zines as everyday feminist practices can effect meaningful social and political change, or do they have significance mainly in personal lives?
i think they impact in a very small way. they change the writer and from time to time they change a reader. I think it's a revolutionary idea every time someone takes the bull by the horns and puts out a zine.

Do you think zines as everyday feminist practices can effect meaningful social and political change, or do they have significance mainly in personal lives?
see above. it's grass roots and you aren't going to change the whole lawn, just a few blades, but a few blades is better than nothing.

 



No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late

The Big Rumpus: A Mother's Tale from the Trenches

 

What do you think about feminism and the feminist movement today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and if yes, what does it mean to you? Or why not?
I'm a feminist. I'm not too up on the rhetoric of gender studies but I have this sneaking suspicion that the labels of what kind of feminist you are, or what kind of punk you are, or what kind of activist you are ultimately leads to squabbles within the ranks. I do wish that more public figures would say damn straight I'm a feminist, rather than couching it in terms acceptable to their public. I think Bitch and Bust magazines are very important feminism wise. I encourage everyone to subscribe, to buy gift subscriptions and to talk these essential publications up. Also to make sure men read articles in these pubs that THEY might find of interest. I just got greg to read the janeanne garofolo interview in Bitch, thanks to his interest in air america. and then I saw him peeking at the vibrator ads. good.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/ mother/ feminist)?
on a personal level, it's just getting the kids from place to place, never having enough time to do what I'd like to do, having to interrupt some project or pleasurable activity before its natural conclusion. in that, i'm rather like a child, getting yanked out of the playground before I feel ready to go. Also, money is a big issue. As a feminist, I've got it pretty good here in NYC. On a political level, or as an American who feels it's necessary to remember it's not just about ME, I'm very concerned with the way public schools are constantly getting boned up the heiner with no grease. You know what? I'm a college educated white woman who's fairly articulate and somewhat web savvy and if I see that our public school is taking a real digger, I have the skills to and the luxury of pursuing other options for my own children. But to use Inky and Milo's school as an example, there are children whose immigrant parents don't speak English, who are growing up poor in single parent families, whose parents' own education was woefully inadequate... see where I'm going with this? It's incumbent that people like me speak up on behalf of others whose voice might not carry so far.it's important to get george goddamn w bush out of office. it's important to protect abortion as a legal option - and to acknowledge that you know what? it IS morally complex. It IS killing something that's not yet alive, but not nothing either. I see the christian right simplifying everything down to black and white and don't want to be guilty of it my ownself. I want to support independently owned stores, especially bookstores. I want to give props to artists and activists whose work I admire, particularly if a word from me can help them advance their career. both greg and I have benefited from the casual but nonobligatory support of others who were further along than we were.

When I tell people in the US that in Austria (the country where I come from) all mothers get a paid 2 and a half year maternity leave as well as the father half a year (or the other way around), they hardly can believe it. However, in Austria there are discussions by feminists that this causes women to stay longer at home so that they loose connections to the work environment, or completely drop out. On the other hand, when I tell people in Austria the situation in the US, they tend to think it's "cruel" to give 6 week-old-babies into day care. What would a feminist utopian family-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be transformed to come closer to an "ideal" world for mothers and families? Do you have any suggestions for the development of progressive-mum-friendly policies?
I'm a bit of an outsider perspective in that respect b/c my jobs have always been day jobs rather than career track jobs that hinge on work outside the home. I think longer parental leaves are good. I think the european model of government subsidized quality day care or parental leave is wonderful. the american government has never ever been family friendly in terms of financial support, which is essential when you don't have enough money and entirely non-essential when you do (that's where Republicans come from, in my humble opinion... and also why liberals tend to congregate in urban areas, where different classes and races interact on a daily basis) I often wish I had a big jolly family who all loved each other and lived nearby so that I'd have somebody who could watch the kids for an hour or two without it costing me $11 bucks an hour and extensive planning.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future?
oh become a big literary star, the female david sedaris, and have my children love me til the day I die.

Many thanks for the interview!

 


Images from Ayun's web site.
Copyright Ayun Halliday

Snail Mail:

Ayun Halliday
PO Box 22754
Brooklyn NY
11202-2754

Email Ayun at:
inky [AT] erols.com

http://www.ayunhalliday.com/inky/


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