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People tend to like my zine. Perhaps you will, too.

Cain #1 was a bit of a rush job, so I didn't do a very thorough job of marketing. I did, however, send one copy to Purple Tights ezine, and here's the review. It's more or less a straight summary, but still informative--and the reviewer decided to refer to me by my last name, so now my cover is blown:

"When I received this in the mail it ended up sitting along side all the other 'literature' I was gonna read ‘later’. Then yesterday afternoon we had a thunder storm causing the power to go out. I decided now would be a good time to get some reading done. I picked up 'Cain' and when I read that the editor was still in high school I assumed it was going to be pretty lame. Ironically I found Chen’s writing style was a lot more sophisticated than anything I could come up with – even if I used a thesaurus! 

Chen writes with bluntness truth and brutality. This, by now graduated, teenager is up on her currentaffairs. I could relate to the piece titled 'Why I Don’t Like to Write'. I also lost a piece of my creativity – back when I graduated from high school – which I think was the main culprit to my sudden case of writer’s block. I could have written the line, 'I subconsciously fear that when I understand every facet of my personality fully, there will be no more of me left…' I use to write all the time. I had notebooks full of my daily routines. After high school I just didn’t have the energy to do it anymore. It wasn’t until I started Purple Tights that I started really writing again. 

'How to Succeed in High School Without Really Learning' is pretty much a slam against students like I was in High School. I things I remember from High School aren’t geometry, history or biology – they’re of skipping school and going to Cambridge and the pranks we pulled. The only reason I actually graduated was because I had a good short term memory. I’d memorize everything the nightbefore and forget it as soon as I finished the test. '…what one might perceive to be learning is nothing more than ingestion, not digestion…only for the purpose of ‘blowing chunks’ on to the  scantron sheet for the next test.' 

'War Bad, Peace Good: Why NATO Stinks' is a piece on the crisis on Kosovo. 'The government acts not out of compassion for oppressed people, but out of its desire to dominate the international political arena.' 

In 'A Day in the Life: Inside a Young Girl’s Brain', her grandmother had it right when she
questioned girls wearing make-up with 'Would you paint a flower?' 

'Losing Sanity and The Trap of Disillusionment' – ‘a virulent sermon on modern-day morality.’ Chen attempts to answer 'What is there to learn from life.'

I found the short story, 'Hit' to be one of the better stories I’ve read lately. Again I was stunned with the quality of writing cain contained.

 'If I haven’t gone blind yet, I’m not Going to' is an article on growing up the all-american way, 'in  front of a television set!'

 There’s some music reviews as well – The Truents, Yo Yo Ma and Ton Koopman, The Bouncing Souls, Southpaw, Ensign, and Electric Frankenstein. 

Cain wraps up with 'A Sort of Uplifting Rant on the Future'… 'The nice thing about being an individual is possessing experiences, concepts and emotions that allow you find your own way to handle life.'
And just to toot my own horn a little more, here are some reviews of issue 2 of cain and cain in general.
 

Jason Pettus of Broken Pencil didn't get the gist of my zine quite right (I'm not really that bitter, am I?), but he nonetheless gives praise:

"This personal zine is a [from] very, very, very bitter high school senior on the eastern seaboard.  Actually, I shouldn't complain—the writing is more intelligent [than] I've ever seen an 18 year-old write, even if it’'s about the perpetually-obsessive subjects of how much your town sucks, how much your parents suck, how much Christianity sucks...etc.  Includes a hilarious story of getting fired from an internship before even getting hired, and a friend's report of 'infiltrating' the blue-collar world for the first time, via bike messengering.  Michelle, dear, believe me, life gets a hell of a lot better when you get to college.  Take my word for it!"

Josh Saitz of Negative Capability fame says of both issues:

"My friend Michelle just started college, but before she left, she did two great issues of her highly personal, highly intellectual zine. Though it's insightful, wordy and interesting, don't let the idea of a 'smart' zine lull you into the false sense that it's dull. It's actually lively and fascinating, funny and furious, frank and forgiving, and that's all the f-words I can think of before I say, "Fucking Great, too." She's a smart person, but more than that, she's something most zine publishers aren't: SINCERE. And for that, I say, rock on!"
 

The folks at Angry Thoreauan also found my zine stimulating and enjoyable, if random at times:

"A perzine that has loads of appreciable stories ... Although cain tends to bounce around a bit, there is much to be enjoyed within it, for the rants fiction, reviews and attitudes about the topics are well thought out. The clip art and plain layout is deceptive; this zine offers some really good reading."

And the praise just keeps on coming. Here are some nice things people have said about cain #4, which was published in the summer of 2001.
 

Miranda Celeste writes:

"I just read cain #4 and wanted to tell you how much I loved it. Your writing is fierce and lovely and ironic yet authentic, all that. Thanks!"

The Alternative Press Review liked cain, too. Unfortunately, for a publication with a name as exciting as "Alternative Press Review," the reviewer has a rather dull writing style, so I cut some stuff:

"CAIN is an engaging, well-written 52-page personal zine published by a young Asian American woman. In this issue, Michelle talks about her trip to China, which was made more interesting given her status as an Asian American. ... Columbus House, a homeless shelter in New Haven, is the subject of another lengthy piece. This piece is made more interesting by the personal encouters with the shelter's residents and administrators that Michelle recounts. ... Better than most personal zines."

More flattering words from A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press :

"This has one of the best things I've ever read in a zine: a 27-page article on Columbus House, a homeless shelter--Michelle interviews both the people staying there and the people running the place. In-depth in a way you rarely see out of a zine. There's also a good piece on being Asian-American in China. Best of all, it's illustrated with some nice phhotographs taken by Michelle herself, rather than settling for the (as Michelle says) 'shitty clipart images' that so many zines use. It's nice to see a zine by someone who actually, you know, cares about what they're doing. Only a buck--well worth it."

They're even reading my zine up in Toronto! Says Kevin Jagernauth of Broken Pencil :

In the introduction, Michelle informs us that Cain has become an annual affair allowing her more time for "inspiration to accumulate." She also tells us that she has scrapped the clipart of the past and opted for her own photographs. I haven't seen the previous incarnations of Cain, but her latest is quite good. In a nice departure from most personal zines, Michelle tells four stories, and lets them unfold in quiet detail. Among the highlights is the account of her two month trip to China, written from the perspective of an American-Chinese, it is a nice account of trying to discover your roots in an ever growing global (American) village. "Activism, Schmactivism" is a funny and familiar tale for anyone who has considered themselves political - until they've actually tried it. The last piece, "A Place Like This," is about Michelle's experience hanging out and interviewing the people who work and reside at a local homeless shelter. It's well done and enough for a single zine. The writing is a step above the conversational tone of most pubs, yet still relaxed enough to make [you] chuckle and smile. Recommended.

Chris Dodge of A Reader's Guide to the Underground Press comments on issue 5:

Substantial, intelligent, articulate, this perzine's New York City-raised editor comes from "an over-educated Chinese-American family" and now attends college in Connecticut. Highlights: a paean to an iconoclastic music teacher, a picturesque report on the people of the War Resisters League, and a profile of a middle-aged guitarist "addicted to music." Also: "a personal rant about my uncle¹s descent into madness" and words about hanging out with punk kids in Beijing.

Well, all these perspicacious reviewers can't be wrong, can they? Well, of course they can. But the only way you can know for sure is by ordering a darn copy of my zine! So do that. Now. Buy an issue right this very minute. You may never be able to live with yourself if you don't.

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