Author: Claire Smith


By Claire Sosienski Smith

Hello and welcome to my ted talk okay buckle up and keep your hands mostly inside the car but I know we are all impulsive creatures!! What? No one gave me a ted talk? That is a non-problem. I’m going to keep referring to all my extended conversations as ted talks and you cannot stop me!!

This is zine culture to me. It’s self-publishing, including spur of the moment diatribes on whatever you want. I say ‘to me’ not because I love gazing at my own navel but because I’m not entirely comfortable outlining exactly what zine culture is to everyone. Some general definitions are that it is personal and radical and firmly rooted in a DIY ethos. This definition is affected by its history, but that is complicated too: are zines a remnant of 90s DIY punk culture, taking on a life of its own when the RIOT GRRRL movement used zines as a way to get girls to the front of the punk scene? Are they the updated scrapbooks that women have been making and sharing since women weren’t allowed to be in public male spaces? Are they another form of letter-writing, just broadcast more widely?? Zine culture is such a conglomerate messy old thing with a victorious heart and its aim has always been rooted in counter-culture, a way of challenging the mainstream ways of sharing knowledge.

I am going to pause here to suggest that in this moment of brands infiltrating all channels of communication, we need to be aware that there are some things that zines are not. Yes, the term itself is half of the word magazine, but we’re a dissected chunk from them that grew better and stronger!! What are magazines doing jumping on the zine train now? Oh, trying to appropriate a radical aesthetic to sell more things??? Quelle surprise!! If they’re too lazy to say the whole word magazines, then a glossy publication that makes profit is a ‘mag’ not a ‘zine.’ Guess I can be a gatekeeper when I want to!!

Hey, it fits into that messy definition I outlined earlier, that zines need something to define themselves against. Zines are trying to give a voice and way to organise to people who are not represented in traditional media channels. Zines are like that really cool friend who you can’t quite tell whether you are desperately in love with or just want to actually BE. She is a good presence in your life regardless. Zines are about presence, about taking up space, about The Present and the future, nodding to the past that brought us a method that means if you have something to say and access to a printer – or now just the internet – you can get it out. Better out than in!! What you have to say is important and publishing your words in zines reinforces this unapologetic and unpolished action of being here. Zines are tangible, which is important for people whose identities and narratives are so often appropriated, talked over, or completely erased.

Zines are not competitive, zines are not for making a profit (the price for a zine should be recuperating your expenses, including your labour and ideally the labour of those who contributed?? But in this world, zines often end up being voluntary contributions of art), zines are not edited, airbrushed or perfected pieces. Zines are an expression of selfhood and community, of your thoughts and what gives you purpose, feeling your feelings and not apologising for the mess. There is always space for more zines. This brings me to the crux of my ted talk: make your own zine. You can do this by folding and stapling / sewing / just keeping the paper loose, writing on the pages and handing it to another person. Maybe it becomes a zine in that act of handing it to another person. Radical connection in the face of isolation. I leave you with my very simple guide on how to use a Microsoft Publisher template (I know, a brand, I’m inconsistent and complacent) to print your zine. It’s a matter of clicking on the right template, compiling your work and printing it out double sided.

That’s all there is to it. There is no reason why you can’t make a zine. I know I would love to see it, but more than anything, I hope that you will love seeing it, holding something in your hands that you made. That feeling will remind you that what you contribute to the world is valuable and worthwhile, just like your zine-loving corporeal form.



by Kitya Mark

[CN: brief mention of Holocaust]


  • This is how I imagine the cashier’s perspective of my mother’s face. (bright colours/vibrant accent/blind in one eye/ a portrait of ExOtIC

Leaning against the counter whilst buying socks for her ceramics teacher my mother replies casually to the cashier that, yes, she is ‘South African’ (jokingly adding that this is in spite of the fact that she has lived in London for twenty five years). Later, over Rooibos tea without milk she and a friend who’s name is also a street-sign discuss Zadie Smith’s ‘On Beauty’ and whether women can be women before they are mothers. (m-o-m crossed out/ the searching o replaced with an undulating u)

Diaspora is a word I have grown up with and grown up under:

Google search etymology:

Greek diaspora “dispersion,” from diaspeirein “to scatter about, disperse,” from dia- “about, across” (see dia-) + speirein “to scatter” (see sprout).

I am a second-generation immigrant. My parents/grandparents/greatgrandparents are second generation immigrants. In Year Two we had to make a family tree and I wonder where I put mine because sometimes inside the rim of my eyelids the tracing through and back stops and I forget or misremember or I was never told where my story began.

“Does identity always have to come from conflict”? (an intellectual debate about politics – perhaps I should have done HSPS)

“well, personally (immediately begin. Because it’s always personal – I do not have the objectivity to do Law) because obviously I’m Jewish (it is the only obvious badge I can wear) my identity is so so so interlaced with conflict cause of the holocaust etc”

Ensure to end with ‘etc’ so it does not come across as too heavy// Step one in intellectual debates: never make them too heavy. Especially if you are just a fresher trying to seem interesting-enough-social-enough-funny-enough-fill-the-footfalls-of-their-friends-from-back-home.

Diaspora – “to scatter” (see sprout) but we were never given the chance to sprout and I suppose its too late to be angry about all that. That is so perfectly in the past. My eldest sister (who knows about such things) told me that ‘Of course we only feel Jewish, if we aren’t Jewish what are we?’

I say only to myself that I am also a

  • Woman
  • Queer (brave enough to put it on the list this time)
  • Sister
  • Daughter
  • Friend
    • I am lots of things and I am also Jewish but my question is different – where did we come from?

‘Yeah, I guess it’s just strange because we’ve grown up somewhere our parents don’t call home’.

I AM TRYING TO BUILD MYSELF BACK UP AGAIN (cornflower blue – reaching steadily towards the stitched weave of sky)


  1. the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel.
    • Jews living outside Israel.
    • the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland.

But it’s not dispersion its displacement. Only the trouble is I cannot remember what we are overflowing from and when people say homeland all I can think of is that stupid television show that I never watched but everyone else always used to talk about on the bus.

(-find-search-‘I’-19 times – I suppose – 20-  it is okay if this is all rather self-indulgent)


By Claire Sosienski Smith

I didn’t speak until I was three years old. This rate of development isn’t incredibly slow, but delayed enough to cause alarm in paediatricians, so my first few memories of hospitals were going for hearing tests. My mum, however, was not alarmed. “How can the kid have hearing problems, when she can hear a crisp packet open from the next room and come running?” was her reasoning. I was a quiet, hungry child. Quieter than a lot of the other family members around me, but definitely part of the family: distracted, erratic, emotional, exhausting. I overheard my mum talking on the phone to my psychiatrist that all the women in my family are like this, but I am the only one who has gone to Cambridge, so this diagnosis of ADHD makes sense. To my mother, I make sense.

And my family make sense to me, and so have my state schools, particularly my primary school which catered for a lot of specific learning disorders at a time when government money was earmarked for its provision. ADHD diagnostic questionnaires don’t make so much sense to me. The person to waltz through an ADHD diagnosis is the type to bump into all other dancers on that floor: the stereotype of the young male child, disrupting their lessons, acting out at home. Have you ever heard of ADHD, inattentive type? I don’t really mind if you haven’t, because the wording of ADHD is outdated. “Attention deficit hyperactive disorder.” How can we avoid deficit models when discussing disability, if ADHD has ‘deficit’ in its name? ADHD is a difference in attention and processing of information. I find it to be an unpredictability of attention. I call myself erratic because ‘attention deficit’ doesn’t match up to when I can be hyper-focused, making links between unrelated topics. It’s an incredible state of mind. My attention is everywhere and, channelled properly, is a complete asset. It’s difficult when I’m in environment that doesn’t cater for ADHD.

I have a style of cognition that takes in a lot of information at once, and my manifestation of working type is ‘inattentive’, rather than hyperactive. This means that my mind will wander off to distraction and daydream to seem permanently spacey or lost in thought. The hyperactive type would typically manifest these symptoms in physical movement, such as rushed speech, a twitching leg, tapping fingers. Most ADHD-types are impulsive. We can call this risk-taking, which is a good thing, yet it can be demonised if you don’t have access to an outlet for this energy. ADHD is over-represented at universities. It is also over-represented in the prison system. People with ADHD have increased susceptibility to alcoholism and drug abuse, for self-medication or as a result of impulsive behaviour. I sympathise that the same impulses that fuel my academic obsessions spill into me being reckless with drink or drugs. People say that there are two types of times with ADHD: now, and not now. Of course I can drink seven pints. The consequences aren’t affecting me right now. I don’t conceptualise things in a linear way. It is all now: one big, bright and incredibly loud mass of information.

Sounds overwhelming? Let’s return to my primary school. I wasn’t the child disrupting class. I was finishing my work early, allowed to choose books from the shelves outside the classroom, I could sharpen all the pencils, I could be cutting out displays for the corridor. I would technically be leaving class a lot, which is something they ask about at ADHD screenings. But somewhere in my school life I became very timid about leaving class, speaking out of turn, seeking extra things to do. I think young girls and other marginalised people are more aware of boundaries: they feel the edges where they are not meant to be with more distinction, shrinking within these boundaries so they can breathe. I wouldn’t leave the classroom or draw too much attention to myself, because I didn’t want people to look at me. I internalised my distraction and restlessness as procrastination, a poor work ethic, an indicator that I was just a little bit crazy. All the women in my family seemed a bit strange, a bit too much, so I tried to be still and void-like.

Symptoms of ADHD must be present before the age of twelve to warrant a diagnosis. But we teach girls to not speak out of turn, to hide unfeminine behaviours, to work harder so no one can tell that you forgot a relative’s name because you were preoccupied with your thoughts. When you are raised female, you learn how to work harder to hide the unacceptable parts of yourself. Add into the mix the theory that, whilst it gets better for boys after twelve years old, ADHD gets worse for girls after puberty. We have a lost generation of girls with ADHD who do not know that their high-speed thoughts are signalling that they are different, and need to work with, rather than against, their brains. These narratives of women with ADHD are missing or invalidated.

I’m incredibly lucky. I had great, social ways of learning so that it was only coming to university that brought my differences in cognition to an impasse. I had a GP here who suggested I go to the Disability Resource Centre for a meeting about ADHD. My NHS waiting list took six months so I didn’t have provisions for exams, but I managed to get through them. The university wouldn’t pay for my diagnosis because the funding that makes this possible had been revoked under the current government. I was supported by my family and friends who would fill in the forms required for diagnosis, when various people in my life would question whether I had ADHD at all. You cannot be ‘too smart’ for a specific learning disorder, especially as these differences in learning and adaptive skills we gain as a result are often the origins of our academic success. People with specific learning ‘disorders’ think differently. It is essential to celebrate and create space for these differences.

I was diagnosed after my psychiatrist called up my mum to discuss her feedback about my childhood. She hadn’t scored me highly enough to qualify for ADHD under the requirements that certain symptoms must be present before puberty. My psychiatrist had told me in person that it seemed incredibly likely that I had ADHD, she just needed the forms to reflect this. Fortunately, she could prompt my mum into understanding that what she saw as good behaviour were examples of leaving the classroom, being distracted, and changing goals constantly, even if the language used in diagnostic questionnaires points towards a child who does not resemble me and uses the language of deficiency. We have imperfect diagnostic tools for ADHD and non-inclusive images of ADHD that leave a lot of people incorrectly diagnosed with anxiety or depression, or left completely undiagnosed.

I am grateful to have a diagnosis and supportive family and friends, whose input was essential to my diagnostic process. I am equally grateful that I was born with this cognitive difference. It’s time for centres of academic prestige such as Cambridge to start catering for brains that don’t work like ‘normal’ ones. Spoiler alert, this is every single brain. There is no such thing as a normal brain. The term ‘normal’ is a lazy and exclusive shorthand. Diagnosis helps people with specific learning disorders access the adjustments, support and (sometimes) the medication they need. I am not about to throw off the label I worked hard to be diagnosed with, but I refuse to see it as something shameful or an indicator of any deficiency.

These alternative forms of cognition are not disorders, and when the environments we are in actively include people who work differently, people with ADHD make sense and are able to access their unique abilities. I feel lucky that I have found a voice within an unwelcoming educational institution, finding pockets of resistance raising awareness that you do not have to change; it’s the traditions, attitudes and stereotypes around you that need radical and complete transformation. Let’s start with the diagnostic criteria, including who we recommend for and recognise are in need of assessment and support. To those who are currently slipping through the cracks: I hear you, even if it may look like I’m not listening – that’s just the way I work. ∎


You can get in touch with me at csosienskismith [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to discuss anything I have mentioned in this article. Your GP can recommend you to an ADHD specialist during a standard appointment. If you’re a university student, you can contact your Disability Resource Centre (or equivalent). Two great resources for women with ADHD are and


Hi everyone! It’s your editor here, offering constant affirmation and creative encouragement. Here’s a press release I just penned:

GENDER AGENDA is the women's campaign zine. A zine is short for 'magazine' and, as a form, zines have their roots in political, punk, and riot girl cultures. We are different to other publications in Cambridge because we want to encourage taking up creative space without any pressure to be perfect. Imperfect grammar? Poems written all in capitals? A bunch of nudes you want to publish yourself? GENDER AGENDA is the space for it. We accept almost every article, short story, poem, collage, art piece, collection of tweets that gets sent to us, either via our facebook page or email ( As a branch of the women's campaign, we accept submissions from self-defining women and non-binary people. Our website takes submissions on a rolling basis and the physical zine gets printed once a term (and we have a big launch party - get in touch if you want to DJ). This term's theme for the printed zine is "NEW BEGINNINGS" and the deadline for submissions is Friday 10th November. I can't wait to see your submissions! Don't let Cambridge tame your creative heart.

Hope it inspires you! Get in touch.

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