BY EMMA MARTIN ’20
This Sunday, Oct. 13, Sarah Cavar ’20 held a reception for the publication of their collaborative zine, “[S]PACE,” featuring student work from self-identified members of the disabled community. The event was held in the Cassani Lounge of Shattuck Hall and open to all. “[S]PACE; Disorderly bodyminds and spacetime,” is the third installment in a series of zines titled “What’s Your Story,” published and curated by Cavar. The reception provided an opportunity for contributors to share their work or have it read aloud by Cavar and for attendees to then discuss the content. The event was also soundtracked by a Spotify playlist featured in the zine that was relevant to people living with disabilities. The event was meant to elicit new creation; Cavar shared prompts for those gathered to write and create with during the event.
Cavar created the “What’s Your Story” zine series as a mode to share the experiences and highlight the artistic work of people identifying as “disabled, neurodivergent or ill.” Cavar conceived the original “What’s Your Story” zine as a final project for a course in disability studies and the publication has since been influenced and educated by their research on the impact of disability on queer spaces. The word “zine” is short for magazine and has been used to define amateur publications about a niche topic. The medium is particularly appropriate for this kind of work. According to Cavar, it allows for artists to have their work shared and distributed without needing to be physically present to voice deeply personal material — something especially important in spaces that tend to exclude disabled people. For this and past editions, Cavar solicited submissions from the Mount Holyoke community and beyond, posting about it on various disability forums.
Cavar spoke on the significance of the title. “‘What’s your story?’ is a question I’ve been asked in psychological and medical venues and which I’ve been engaged in for as old as my memory goes,” said Cavar. “I’m always asked to go through my entire life story and say what’s wrong with me because I’m deemed disabled or crazy.” According to Cavar, being asked to recount one’s story by someone without prior knowledge can be traumatizing, and an act of “emotional violence.” Representing one’s experience with disability is “not so simple as providing proof,” they said. Thus the title is a “tongue-in-cheek reference to this medicinal ignorance,” and the tactlessness of medical professionals and institutions.
The purpose of the zine was to create a forum for people to tell their story on their own terms without any attempt at treatment while building a community at Mount Holyoke. To Cavar, it was particularly significant for people to have the option to share, talk or just listen at the event, thereby resisting the traditional medical view of what is done with disabled people and their stories. Cavar encourages readers and attendees of their zine’s receptions to “listen with compassion and maybe relate” to others’ experiences. “Rather than seek to diagnose our lived realities so as to make them legible for a ‘general’ audience,” reads the zine’s introduction, “we choose to draw and voice them here as they are.”
The zine featured a poem from Frankie Ferri ’20 titled “Lying to your psychiatrist.” They spoke on the process of contributing to a zine, saying, “It was a very therapeutic experience for me. [Cavar] gives you slight thematic parameters, but aside from that it’s really up to the artist what they want to create. There’s a lot of space there to just be honest about your emotions as they pertain to whatever topic you choose.” Ferri continued, “The deadline was right near a period of the summer in which I was struggling, and I was able to write through that struggle with the zine in mind. Overall a great experience.”
Cavar is currently seeking submissions for the next installment of “What’s Your Story.” Submissions can take the form of anything printable; poetry, prose, art and mixed media pieces. Cavar is also hoping to expand the breadth of the project and is now also accepting audio and visual work. Cavar is also actively soliciting compensated help from disabled students of color who want to assist with the zine in order to better represent a diverse community. Email cavar22s@mtholyoke. edu to submit artwork, to access a print or online copy of the zine or for more information.