Taking heartbreak seriously | Valentine's Day | Chicago Reader

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Taking heartbreak seriously

A journalist turns her breakup into art and politics with a breakup zine.

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No matter how cynical and anti-consumer culture you may be, Valentine's Day is often a bitch when you're not coupled up—especially so if you're going through a breakup. A couple of years ago investigative reporter (and sometimes Reader collaborator) Yana Kunichoff found herself at the end of a nine-year relationship. The breakup was an apocalypse in the way only ones that mean the end of a whole life and way of being can be. After a year of struggling through her feelings, she decided to make processing the breakup a political project and enlisted collaborators, including her roommate and partner in heartbreak, Kelly Viselman, to make a zine.

Why make a zine to deal with a breakup?

I'm a journalist, I very much experience the world by talking to people, taking information, and then writing it out in the world. That is my basic processing mechanism for reality. I was going through a really hard breakup of a relationship of nine years—a really long intense, beautiful relationship. I found myself doing what I would do with any article [I write]. I was googling, like, "how long will this heartbreak last? When will I feel better?"

As a fellow journalist recently going through a breakup I can relate!

I was reading research papers. I was like: "There must be some kind of empirical answer!" But I was not really finding anything. I was finding these terrible articles. All these photos of a woman sitting amongst plants alone. [The breakup] felt much rawer and much more intense than any of these things acknowledged so I was like: "What else can I do?" As a general approach to my own emotional space and emotional experience of a woman I kind of think in the frame of Elena Ferrante, Doris Lessing, bell hooks—the personal is political. In my own coming to this place of independence and openness with the people around me I was like, "This is not just a personal experience. This is a political awakening to a different way I want to be in the world, and a reckoning with my own emotional space." I had never done zines before. But the person I'm in a relationship with now came from a much more DIY, punk anarchist culture. And I was so interested in this creative idea as a way of processing. Zines have a radical political history and having other people be part of the zine was really big because a project like this is not just like publishing my journal. I want there to be a space for people to come together around this issue and think creatively about "What are the artifacts of this really painful thing that you've gone through?"

So what's in this breakup zine? It doesn't exist yet, right?

It doesn't exist fully yet. It is a very long Google doc. I put in some of my own writing. I was reading a lot of poetry at the time and finding that that was better able to mediate the emotional place I was at. There's a list of song lyrics we felt spoke most clearly to some of the pain. Someone gave me a list of things that they have promised themselves they wanted to do before they started dating again. Then another list of the type of guys that they went on dates with before they met the person they ended up falling in love with. A friend of mine wants to submit some excerpts of letters between her and her partner when they were breaking up.

What do you hope people will take away from the zine?

To me [the breakup] was a rethinking of an entire history, and not to delegitimize or change it but to understand this new shattering reality in which I had to rethink my past and reset it in my mind. And that is like an insane psychological endeavor. It took a realigning of self.

Because it's an ego death.

Yeah, I think that's true. At its core, this zine is for people who have experienced this kind of heartache. It is a document of solidarity to people who might go through it, to people who are considering going through it, and to people who have gone through it. The other side of love is heartbreak. And taking love seriously means taking heartbreak seriously.

On Valentine's Day, Fri 2/14, Kunichoff is hosting a zine-making party. To learn more about the event or submit art and writing for the breakup zine, contact her at break.up.zine23@gmail.com.   v

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