zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sick: a compilation zine on physical illness

Sick: a compilation zine on physical illnes
Edited by Ben Holtzman

14cm x 21.6cm, 88 pages

Cost: offered as part of Microcosm Publishing sliding scale pricing $5-$7

I read every word of every zine that is sent to me for review. Occasionally the focus of a zine is so close to my own experience it can make that reading difficult. For me, Sick is one of those zines. 

I have a lifelong medical condition that results in permanent chronic joint pain. Its invisibility and long-termness brings with it additional social challenges that everyone with a chronic condition has to face: periods of isolation; having to explain or excuse yourself; 'behind the scenes' planning for the most mundane of activities; not knowing from one day to the next.

The pieces in Sick are written by those with physical illness, and by daughters, sisters, and friends. The conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypoglycemia, hepatitis, Lyme disease, and polycystic kidney disease. What comes across in Sick is not the details of individual conditions or individual suffering, but a collective need for understanding and awareness. Ben states in the introduction:
Too often those of us who are living with illness have felt that our experiences are not welcome in conversation, even within radical/alternative communities. Illness is seen as taboo...this zine collects peoples' experiences with illness to help establish and further a personal and collective voice of those impacted by illness. 

The writing throughout is excellent, and the zine is clearly lovingly produced and designed - with a stylish use of old medical textbook illustrations. I know I'm close to the subject matter, but at times Sick will be an emotional read for anyone. For example, part of Sarah Hughes' piece includes a verbatim letter written by her dad to his "precious dysfunctional family":

If you're talking to me and I sound happy, it means I'm happy. That's all. It doesn't mean that I'm not in a lot of pain, or extremely tired, or that I'm getting better, or any of those things. Please don't say "Oh, you're sounding better!". I am not sounding better. I am sounding happy. 

Sick is essential reading for those with physical illness, as well as family and friends of those with a condition. Topics also include receiving and providing support, as well as how to be an informed patient. And if nothing else, reading Sick will help open a dialogue in relationships where illness is a factor, to not proportion blame, to help erase the guilt of need. 

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