Well people, it’s official — we have our winners.
We’ll say it as we always do: each zine submitted to the awards pool this year is worthy of celebration. All zines have unique value, an innate quality that transforms and transmits depending on the context, reader, timing and purpose. As our team pores, deliberates and debates over hundreds of entries, our vastly different tastes and values inevitably come out, illuminating precisely this point.
So, we deliver these awards every year not to dampen the shine of any zine to promote another. Rather, we do it to honour the work we find to be adventurous, intimate, effective and challenging. It is an immense effort, and it requires impossible decisions. But it ultimately feels awesome to present these trophies, and to champion our winners and finalists throughout the year. Get to know them. A sincere congratulations to all, and for everyone else, let’s do it again next year.
Learn more about the Broken Pencil Zine Awards here. • See the complete list of nominees and finalists here.
Best Infozine & Zine of the Year
American Dreams in a Chinese Takeout
by Katie Gee Salisbury
Brooklyn, New York
“This zine is a look into the sociopolitical issues surrounding Chinese takeout restaurants and the workers who make them run, and it has real impact. The exquisite photography pairs the text seamlessly. It’s clear Katie Gee Salisbury did both research and introspection, then synthesized both in various media. It makes for engaging reading. Plus, the design is top notch. Fantastic.” — Zine Awards Judge Liz Mason
“Salisbury’s remarkable zine project challenges us all to try on different gazes in order to engage with the rich, overlapping layers of media — in one moment, you are a gallery visitor at the opening for the initial photography project, and in another, you’re on a long subway ride reading an investigative magazine piece. In several instances, you become Katie Gee Salisbury’s acquaintance, she tells you about her family (and thousands of families) as she walks you to the door of a migrant labour organizing meeting. Later, long after you put the zine down, you are yourself again as you consider your take-out options and pause to reflect on the interlocking gears of history, labour, and complexity required to bring you your box of lo mein.
The writing, research, photography, design and delivery of this genre-spanning publication suggest that it has been many years in the making. But more importantly, it’s a testament to Katie Gee Salisbury’s outstanding talents, chief among them her capacity to lead these profound inquiries with human compassion and curiosity.” — Jonathan Valelly, Editor of Broken Pencil Magazine
Click here for more on American Dreams in a Chinese Takeout
Things Men Say To Me At Work
by Eva Dominelli
Vancouver, British Columbia
“This is a striking glimpse into the working life of a woman in the trades. Eva Dominelli expertly balances colour, texture and beautiful illustrations with honest stories of sexual harassment.
This zine is important and relatable for readers of many genders seeking dignity and respect in many fields and workplaces. Dominelli skillfully reveals the concrete barriers of misogyny and patriarchy operating in plain sight, and makes the picture very clear as to why more women are not working in trades — its not for lack of skill.” — Zine Awards Judge Sonali Menezes
Click here for more on Things Men Say To Me At Work
Best Comic Zine
by Shannon Reeves (Gytha Press)
“Restless Bones is an unsettling piece of body horror and meditation on personal trauma. There are some very inventive formal experiments here, and the author’s technical skill gets to be put on full display once the comic starts pushing its panel compositions to their limits. It transitions from chaotic, maximalist layouts to more stark, minimal ones seamlessly.
This is a short and sharp psychic unspooling, a perfect short story.” – Zine Awards Judge Michael DeForge
Click here for more on Restless Bones
Is It Just Me Or Are We Nailing This?
by Joshua James Amberson, Molly E. Simas, and M.L. Schepps (editors)
“What really makes this zine about the show Bojack Horseman stand out is the thoughtful and philosophical approach in thinking about popular culture. You don’t even need to have seen any of the show to appreciate how great the zine is. Many contributions in this zine do what some of my favourite pieces about popular culture do: communicate personal truths that are also relevant to the universal human experience, independent of whatever medium they may be writing about.” – Zine Awards Judge Liz Mason
Click here for more on Is It Just Me Or Are We Nailing This?
Best Group Zine or Collab
The Pandemic Post #3
by Lucy Andersen, Kate Andersen, and Dashiell Robb
Brooklyn, New York
“The crew behind The Pandemic Post gave themselves a tough challenge when they created this beast at the start of the whole thing. It’s a large-format, full-colour newspaper talking exclusively about the uplifting topic of COVID-19. Oh yeah.
But by the end of each article I was eager to read the next one. The size is less than ideal for convenience and portability, but it does give them the freedom to incorporate large photos, artwork, and lots of colour. The writing ranges from poetry to essays to interviews, all excellent. The topic, while understandably depressing, is dealt with in a straight-forward manner, with enough optimism sprinkled throughout that the reader puts down the paper not only willing to fight this virus, but suddenly more able to do so.
Even though we live in a globalized world, it’s easy to get lost in our own little bubble. The Pandemic Post helps you out of that bubble by telling readers what it’s like to deal with COVID in Germany or Nigeria or some other part of the world. Oh, and as for the somewhat steep cover price, that money goes to COVID-related charities. This is exactly the kind of publication we need right now.” — Zine Awards Judge Billy McCall
by Nicole Morning
“Nicole Morning’s Tinderness is a refreshingly straightforward and unpretentious zine perfectly in step with modern life. Her clear voice shines through as she seeks out tenderness amidst alienation and unabashedly pursues a good fuck. Morning’s honesty paints a unique portrait of modern dating defined by the mediation of dating apps and instant gratification, punctuated by a relatable search for comfort, warmth and security.” — Zine Awards Judge Sonali Menezes
Best Political Zine
International Whores’ Day Zine 2020
by IWD NYC 2020 Coalition
New York, New York
“A beautifully executed piece of agitation and education, produced and compiled by workers, organizers and artists on currently the front lines of the battles against whorephobia, sexism, capitalism and the prison industrial complex. This covers quite a lot of ground for a publication just shy of 60 pages, and would be an especially valuable read to anyone grappling with ideas around sex work, mutual aid or abolition for the first time.
It accessibly outlines sites of shared struggle, and provides a sort of road map for ways workers and allies can continue to build collective power.” — Zine Awards Judge Michael DeForge
Click here for more on International Whore’s Day Zine 2020
by Jeni Larson
“Zero Stars doesn’t look like what I think a perzine should look like, but it does all the things a perzine is supposed to do. It tells the story of one woman’s battle with cancer, and does so without over-explaining each and every detail. We are drawn into her life almost entirely through posts and instant messages sent to and from her phone during her treatment, prompting us to figure out for ourselves what is going on. Through this process we get to know Larson, her friends and family, and of course, feel her struggle. We cheer for Jeni Larson’s courage and cry with sympathy at her fears. Visually the zine is very sparse, with a lot of white space, and my natural zinester reaction was to consider this space wasted. But as I read, I realized that all the white space was allowing me to soak in the few words printed on each page, and truly reflect on their meaning.
After 20 years of making zines, this one taught me such a simple lesson. The story was engaging, and by the end I wanted to give Jeni a big hug and congratulate her, not just for beating cancer but for making a great zine about a difficult time. Zero Stars gets five stars.” — Zine Awards Judge Billy McCall