Synopses & Reviews
Meet Moe Bowstern, writer, fisherwoman, tough cookie. Moe is a woman working in the male-dominated commercial fishing industry of Alaska's Kodiak Island and this, the Xtra Tufzine, is her story. As says Moe in Xtra Tuf #5, "The stories presented in these pages are just a few views of a complicated history. I hope reading them provides some insights into the tremendous challenges facing those who reap the seas." Issue 5, the first in book-form, is the "strike issue." Winner of the 2007 Lilla Jewel Award, and sporting special letter press covers featuring more than 30 different color schemes, #5 tells a tale of dissent and frustration. Like The Grapes of Wrath or Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Xtra Tuf #5 is the story of a people's struggle. It's a social history but it's also a love-letter to the ancient rites and rituals of sustenance fishing. In Moe's writing you smell the salt air and land breezes. You see sunsets from the deck of the boat and feel the pitching waters. And, above all, you meet--and then know--all the earnest, hilarious, conflicted, hardworking folks who populate her narrative.
"Before 1997, at the beginning of the season, the canneries would post a price for fish, a token cent, literally a penny per pound - and then raise it as the season progressed. The fishermen wouldn't fish without the posting 0 producing fish in a competitive market, from an unpredictable sea, placed the skippers under too much financial pressure, as they hired a crew and outfitted a boat, for them not to be assured of payment. Once the token cent was posted, the skippers fished away, trusting that the canneries would eventually settle on an acceptable price, while the canneries trusted that the fishermen would bring them their fish. In 1997, everything changed. Before the Kodiak herring season, one of the big, Japanese owned canneries on cannery row did not post the usual token-cent price before the fleet went fishing. They caught and delivered fish, all on an open ticket. At the end of the season the fishermen did not get paid for their herring. The rumor was that the cannery just shrugged and said 'We never said we would pay you.' [Moe] Bowstern's magnum opus. This issue includes strike-related songs, cartoons, fliers, company and union postings, and Bowstern's observations of other strike participants. The risk of bringing fish to the table becomes visceral here - and added to that is the irony that men who developed scabies and died were scabs, who, only the night before, strikers had wished dead, at least metaphorically." —Cathy Camper, Women's Review of Books
"In her great Xtra Tuf ‘zine series, Moe Bowstern writes about life as a commercial fisherman. Shes a solid storyteller, and puts a lot of history, life, and philosophy into her tales of hardcore fishing. You can get her new book, Xtra Tuf #5, right here, but you can also see her in action tonight at Liberty Hall (311 N Ivy) where shes participating in the Annual Winter Solstice Puppet Show. What does this have to do with her ‘zine writing? Im not sure, but considering Ive dug everything shes done so far (she also writes the This Little Light of Mine and Second Set Out ‘zines) Im thinking tonight should be good. The time is 9 pm. The cover is free. The audience is YOU." —Adam Gnade, Portland Mercury
"This zine is such an interesting peek into the world of commercial fishing in Alaska that its almost possible to overlook the storys dismissal of the gang rape incident. Written in a style that is at once comforting and compelling, Moe Bowstern respectfully tells her story of life-as-an-Alaskan-fisherman. Xtra Tuf No. 5 takes us through the 1997 Alaskan Fishermans strike. It ends in 2005 with Moe coming full circle, back to her fishermans-souls life. Were glad she does. Moe has heart. Her allegiance to feminism is unquestionable; she talks of “dismantling the patriarchy,” she attends underground anarchist meetings and the zine itself is free to commercial fishing women. She gives nod to the linguistic debate over the term fisherman to include all, um, fisher-persons. Furthermore, she walks the walk: just how many women fishermen do you think there are, anyway? Ultimately, skipping out on this zine would be unfathomable. Now put the juice to the jimmy and get reading." —Michelle C. Schaefer, Feminist Review
"You can call it a zine if you want ... I say it's a book. There's a spine with print on it and everything ... There's a comic, several press releases from the USA (the United Salmon Association, of course), some song lyrics, and what have you, but most of it's good old-fashioned prose, and most of it by Moe herself. Pretty darn well-written prose, too..." —Zine Thug
"Moe has a critical point of view as she writes from her position as a woman, a deckhand, a beach seiner, and an activist. At the same time, she prides herself on being fair ... Without Xtra Tuf, the history of these three labor struggles could easily be lost. Instead, we have collection of original documents and a first-hand account from a female deckhand." —New Labor Review
Moe Bowstern has brought us the inside story about being a woman who fishes commercially for years. If that doesn't seem fascinating to you, you have another thing coming. Moe is an amazing storyteller and reveals much about the history of commercial fishing in Alaska through a very descriptive and personable narrative that can be understood by any layperson. She tells great stories of the crews she's been involved with and their dynamics as well being a woman involved in a very male dominated profession. Moe has a passion for fishing and the sea and she shares this with you in her zine. This is her story of being on the job and "how she got xtra tuf" on a few different episodes of labor disagreements that held up work (technically not "strikes") over many years. Fascinating reading as she combines her artistic and DIY sensibilities with the labor tactics in order to achieve the fishermen's goals and get everyone back to work! The book sports a fancy letter pressed cover by Third Termite Press with 30 different colors schemes. Winner of the 2007 Lilla Jewel Award!
About the Author
is a writer, gallery artist, and puppeteer She lives in Portland, Oregon.