Victoria Law has been publishing the zine Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison since 2002.
Tenacious started when a group of women in an Oregon prison decided that they wanted to make a zine. They had been reading prison zines that focused on men’s prison experiences and weren’t seeing the issues that they dealt with daily, such as trying to parent from behind prison walls, keeping legal custody of their children, sexual harassment and assaults by prison staff and trying to access adequate medical care, in what they were reading. So they decided that they needed to put out a zine about women’s prison experiences. They wanted the general (zine reading) public would know about what went on inside women’s prisons. They also wanted to share their struggles-and their victories-with women incarcerated in other states.
But, being in prison, they had no access to equipment like computers (or even typewriters) and copying machine. They also had limited access to postage as well as an inability to write to people in prisons elsewhere. Victoria Law was in touch with one of these women and so she turned to her. “I want to do a zine,” she wrote. “I want people to read about the injustices here and our struggles. Will you help me put it out?” She said yes.
Twelve years later, all of the women who contributed to the first issue of Tenacious are out of prison and have moved on with their lives. During those years, women incarcerated across the nation have written to request the zine and to submit their own poetry, essays and drawings. Victoria has gotten mail as far away as Alaska and as close as New Jersey. Women write about various aspects of their lives, including their fears, hopes and dreams. Others draw, not just about their realities (although some do depict that) but also drawings to brighten their own and others’ days.
Tenacious has always been free to women behind bars. All they have to do is scrape up the money for a stamp, an envelope and a scrap of paper to let me know they’d like to be placed on the mailing list. Even though sharing items is technically illegal in prisons, women pass the zine around and let others know how to get their own copy. Victoria pays for the photocopying and postage and tries to recoup the costs by selling Tenaious at zine fests, book-fairs, and whenever she gives talks about women in prison at colleges and community events.
To learn more about Victoria Law, the work she does and Tenacious, visit: http://resistancebehindbars.org