AT A MOMENT when the "single-mom theory" is the single-bullet theory of all social ills, saying it's cool to be a young, poor, unmarried mother is like proclaiming you're a Maoist. That's why Hip Mama is such an adrenalizing read. Put out by a one-time teen welfare mom, this sharp "parenting zine" brims with humor, pride, and a quantity sorely missing from most fanzines: politics. You may know some of the young mothers Hip Mama is aimed at: the growing crowd of young women too bohemian or sexually active to be satisfied by suburban glossies like Your Child. Fanzine queen and quintessential hip mama Lisa Carver (whose Rollerderby #21 is also just out) may have provided the model for "editor/publisher girl" Ariel Gore, but Hip Mama is the first full-fledged forum for Gingrich's natural enemies.
Gore started the zine as a senior project in college, and at issue #13 it still feels like an experiment; from pro-AFDC partisans to New Agers, a variety of highly personal voices from around the country mix it up (one reflective soul asks, "If your two-year-old throws up all over the car on a long trip home from the mountains, did you create that reality?"). For this summer's "taboo issue," Gore rounded up an interview with the ever-provocative Susie Bright. ("Tell your children the names of their genitals," she advises. "A two-year-old can pronounce 'clitoris.'") Gore has also found a phone-sex mom who tells the humorous side of the feeding-the-baby-while-talking-dirty scenario from the film Short Cuts. ("I began to involuntarily sprinkle this ridiculously intricate bondage fantasy with excerpts from 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,'" she recalls.)
But as a whole, Hip Mama is far from frivolous: One piece describes the trials of raising a daughter with a serious skin disease, another follows a mom who sticks at her daughter's side through an abortion procedure. Not just "hip" in the Beat-derived sense, this zine defines the word first as "Aware; Informed." This is real life, it says, but your struggles aren't yours alone to bear. Just like the calendar at the start of every Martha Stewart's Living magazine, page one offers "Yo Mama's Day Book," which includes such entries as "Illegally Xerox thousands of protest flyers," and "Drag kids to Capoeira martial-arts demo." Hip Mama lets you imagine you're part of an angry, cool community of parents, then offers a model for becoming, um, more hip. (P.O. Box 9097, Oakland, CA 94613, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Slightly less hip is the August/September issue of Lip, a neat little lefty zine in a market practically void of them. Their notable May/June issue featured Noam Chomsky reprints, good cartoons, and an amusing article called "Decipher the Revolutionary Communist Party Propaganda Contest!!!" But this new one is mostly good for informational skimming, aside from an interesting piece on local currency (replacing the national money system with a fairer system of bartered hours) and a reprint from the hard-to-find journal Race Traitor. Any "zine" that costs more than The Nation shouldn't have a section beginning with the sentence: "Let us look at the nature of trade between agricultural, industrial and information economies." Let us not and say we did. (Lipsite: www.netural.com/lip; write the Lip Collective at 1400 W. Devon, # 243, Chicago, IL 60660.)
Both more square and more entertaining is The Skinny, a local zine also on the political tip. True to its title, this 15-pages-short Kinko's special gives the exhausted tag "secret history" a good name with equally overblown tributes to both the inventor of the neon light, Nikola Tesla, and the lite heavy-metal band named in his honor (remember Tesla's cover of "Signs"?). The various authors still find space enough to target the show Touched by an Angel as one of "the most sentimental, maudlin, and insidiously propagandistic" television programs ever aired, one which "portrays characters in opposition to religious dogma as troubled, ineffective, disobedient and immoral." And I thought Highway to Heaven was bad. (224 W. 27th St., Minneapolis, MN 55408, email@example.com)
Both less skinny and less square is the personal-is-political zine Fat! So?, "for people who don't apologize for their size." Complete with handy "Fat Power" sticker, Fat! So? #3 finds its proud body politics through the wringer of personal pain in everything from interviews with the musically light, physically heavy duo Tuck and Patti to an account of something as seemingly innocuous as a trip to Disneyland. The zine certainly forces the issue, but it may have a limited half-life for the skinniness of its scope. (P.O. Box 423464, San Francisco, CA 94142)