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The Personal is Political:

An interview with Thara Harris

by Elke Zobl

July 2001

A very neat, small zine (I have #3) dealing with love, friendships, family, just as the title says! Thara is doing zines since 1995!!!
Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
well, i was born in a metro wv hospital on july 12, 1980, and i'm from saint albans, wv, where (according to my driver's liscense) I currently live. but really, i live in huntington, wv, where i am a student at marshall university.

What do you do besides your zine?

right now i'm working a temporary retail job, and when school starts in the fall i'm going to be a tutor. but, mostly, other than being a zinester, i'm a student. (i'll have a ba in English literature in december 2002, then i'll probably go to grad school eventually.)

For how long have you been running your zine now? How many issues did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
i started writing & making zines in 1995, so seven years and counting. so far I have had around 20 issues under various titles, and i'm working on my 21st (love letter #5). i have always been the only "editor," but in the beginning (when it was called "befriending your teenager" and then "bloody ice cream"), i printed mostly my work and a few pieces by my friends, but since about 1997 i have been the sole writer & editor.

What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
i started reading my pen-pals zines around 1994, and i thought, "I can do this," so i did. i got the first title ("befriending your teenager") from a book that my mom had and obviously did not read (though i love her madly now). other names came from songs that meant a lot to me, or i thought described me ("bloody ice cream," "christine bactine"). i don't really know why i chose the name "love letter," but i think it may be because sometimes my zines are like a giant fucked up love letter.

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
my zine is mostly personal, so the topics vary depending on what is affecting me at the time. my last issue (american action [love letter #4]) had a lot about my love life, some travel stories, a little about my annoyance with west virginia stereotypes, and a few other things.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
i don't know if my zine is really 'established,' but i know that with each zine i make i reach a personal accomplishment, i get my words out there and purge my system. also, whenever someone writes me and tells me that they related to something in the zine, it's always a great feeling.

What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
my first exposure to zines were the zines that my pen-pals Allison and kasie did. they were called "ernie is dead" and "sunnyside down," and i found out about them because they sent them to me... there really is no great story about how i got my first zines. They really did inspire me to write my own, though.

Do you consider grrrl zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think zines can effect meaningful social and political change?
i think all zines are an important part of a movement, especially grrrl zines. i also do believe that zines with political content can spark change because it gets the reader to think and question the new ideas and the old, and often inspires people to become active politically, which is what makes change happen.

What does the zine community mean to you? / Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl zine community in your country?
since i'm like, the only girl zinester in west virginia, my thoughts about the zine community are that of an outsider. i have made some good friendships through the mail/e-mail, but i have never gotten to go to a zine conference or anything, and i have only gotten to hang out with a few zinesters in real life, so my zine community is a little detached. still, the zine community made up of some of the most amazing/intelligent/hot girls and boys who i am privileged enough to come in contact with. places like the pander zine distro messageboard have helped my communication with other zinesters and zine readers a lot, and if it weren't for the internet, i'd probably be even more detached from the community.

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
don't write to please anyone but yourself.

What are some of the zines you admire?
that girl, red-hooded sweatshirt, subject to change, girl swirl, rock star with words, journalsong, doris, southern fried darling, soldier, quantify, anything that nicole (texttrap) does, and about a million more!!!

Do you define yourself as a feminist?
most definitely.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist)?
right now i'm living in a republican household, to having to bite my tongue around everyone to avoid conflict (since i am basically a guest here) is my most pressing issue. i've also never been good at writing about politics so it's really best that i leave that to the people who are good at it. i'm still forming thoughts and picking apart ideas to find myself as a feminist, so i can't talk about my daily feminist issues in such a public forum at this point.

Are you active in the feminist movement?
i'm as active as i can be here in west virginia while working part time and going to school full time, but i'm working on becoming more active. i am about to start a new campus feminist group at my university with a friend of mine, and we are going to be more radical than the other two groups. no more of this nice and quiet bullshit... we're going to be loud and aggressive, but approachable.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of "Third Wave Feminism" and what does it mean to you?
i really don't know if i fit into "third wave feminism," because i'm still trying to figure out what kind of feminist i am, if i even fit into a 'brand' of feminism.

Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
the internet keeps me in touch with the zine community, and the bulk of my orders come from the internet, so obviously it plays a huge role in the distribution of my zine, and the contacts i have through zines. i don't think it really changes my ideas of making/doing/ reading zines, but it definitely gives me new ideas. also, things like online journals that belong to zinesters allow me to know the zinesters more than i would by just reading their zines, even though people are much different in person than they are on paper or on a computer screen.

6) Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
i have a feeling a bombed this interview. but it's the first one I have ever done. be gentle.


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