Monday, December 5, 2005

Punk Parenting: The Future Generation Interview

by Jeff Bagato

As with other aspects of underground culture, “punk parenting” has caught on as a hot topic, most prominently in Bust’s motherhood issues, Ayun Holliday’s East Village Inky, and the print and web zine Hip Mama. But back in 1990, these resources weren’t available to a young, single welfare mom named China – if they had been, she never would have started her own zine, The Future Generation (TFG), to create a network of like-minded parents. She couldn’t have known back then that her need to document her own experiences as a mother and to share parenting resources would lead her on such a long run through the underground press – an accomplishment that makes her a kind of grandmother to lots of new punk mommies.

When I first found The Future Generation in Normals Bookstore in Baltimore, I was initially attracted by its crayon-colored cover. As with LPs, zines with handmade touches seem to be made with an extra bit of love and commitment that nearly always shows up in the quality of their contents. TFG was no exception. When I flipped thru it, I was blown away by the dense offerings of personal experience, excerpts from alternative childcare sources, photos, children’s drawings and poems – articles focused on raising a child from a punk or anarchist perspective. China’s writing went well beyond platitudes, ideological ranting, self-pity or dogma; instead of bullshit, her writing was always honest, reflecting her struggles to raise a daughter on her own while keeping her ideals intact. Because she was so honest, you found out what worked and what didn’t, where compromises were made (like when she enrolled her daughter in public school) and the delicate issues of being responsible for a child’s safety while allowing them freedom to explore.

As a new stay-at-home dad trying to balance my show-going nightlife with a freelance writing “career” and changing diapers, TFG was just what I needed. I immediately struck up a correspondence with China, visited her at her home in the Stony Run neighborhood near BWI airport which she would document in TFG, contributed to her zine, and shared the stage with her at readings in Baltimore, where she now lives. From my perspective, TFG is one of the most committed, radical and inspiring zines ever produced, anywhere. Read More...

And check out this history of mama/parenting 'zines also written by China Martens.

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