Sore Loser: a chronic pain and illness zine on queer disabled grief (Etzali Hernández and Sandra Alland)

Reviewed by Diane R. Wiener

As 2021 drew to a close, creative collaborators Etzali Hernández and Sandra Alland created print, audio, and downloadable PDF (with alt-text) flip-book versions of their bold zine, Sore Loser. Their interactive work began, as they note on the Disability Arts Online site, with writing poetry together (using Signal) and podcasting, all the while engaging with an astrology and astronomy calendar—connecting purposefully with the solstices. A podcast was recorded via Zoom and “released for Samhain/Día de muertos,” while the zine was made public on the winter solstice.

As the collaborators describe, “The zine is made from four pieces of A4 paper folded in half, which makes it 16 pages long. It has a bright yellow piece of A4 cardstock for the cover, and it’s stapled together with two staples. The contents are black and white poems, quotes and other texts, with some small black and white images. The text is either handwritten or printed in 13 point Arial and 11.5 Verdana fonts. We made each page by cutting and pasting the laser-printed or handwritten text and images, then scanning it. The cutting and pasting, and the effect of scanning, gives the pages a sense of texture and depth. Sometimes the outline of where we cut and pasted stands out strongly in black, other times it’s more subtle.”

The COVID pandemic’s relentless and inegalitarian impact on marginalized people, especially QTBIPOC Disabled folx, is made front-and-center throughout the zine. The strategic necessities of Disabled arts and cultures; a clear, proud, and abiding refusal of normativity; and engagement, community-led Disability Justice activism, and mutual aid are all overt themes and bases for discussion and exploration. 

Sore Loser may easily be described as short but not sweet (although the sweetness of friendship and peppered humor are both vastly evident, the zine’s topics are hardly sweet—of course). The creative duo’s unapologetic critique of denial, and their underscoring of the ways in which grief and loss are uneasy, necessary facets of life are met in equal measure by a strong attention to how and why queer disabled grief and the power of living with chronic pain and illness must be discussed overtly, boldly, and with love—during Covid-19 and beyond. Poetry, conversations, visual art, mash-ups, and prose quotes are present throughout the multi-genre, multi-modal, accessibly-produced zine.

In “Your Exquisite Cutup,” the authors (here writing as interactive poets) share wisdom they “composed via Signal messages, autumn equinox 2021, Glasgow.” Toward the poem’s conclusion, they note: 

I mean it’s all about getting to stay
or come back isn’t it, like:
I dreamt I was a selkie the other day.

But it’s the Equinox
and I’m at the doctor’s again.
Bury me with my cane
and a renewable pain meds prescription.

The zine ends with a collection of resources (on several timely subjects, among them: bereavement, funeral planning, death studies, and the role of social movements in addressing grief) and a powerful dedication: “In memory of all those recently lost, especially our friends, ancestors, colleagues and heroes: Shaun Mitchell, Nila Kamol Krishnan Gupta, Ryan Ayukawa, Vanessa Rymer, Callie Gardner, RM Vaughan, Mars Kaufman, Katherine Araniello, Lizzie Emeh, Stacey Park Milbern, Heir of the Cursed, Don Weitz.”

Email to purchase copies and/or visit the website.

Title: Sore Loser: a chronic pain and illness zine on queer disabled grief
Authors: Etzali Hernández and Sandra Alland
Publisher: Disability Arts Online
Date: 2021

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About the Reviewer

Diane R. Wiener (she/they) became Editor-in-Chief of Wordgathering in January 2020. She is the author of The Golem Verses (Nine Mile Press, 2018), Flashes & Specks (Finishing Line Press, 2021), and The Golem Returns (swallow::tale press, 2022). Diane’s poems also appear in Nine Mile Magazine, Wordgathering, Tammy, Queerly, The South Carolina ReviewWelcome to the Resistance: Poetry as ProtestDiagrams Sketched on the Wind, Jason’s Connection, the Kalonopia Collective’s 2021 Disability Pride Anthology, and elsewhere. Her creative nonfiction appears in Stone CanoeMollyhouse, The Abstract Elephant Magazine, and Pop the Culture Pill. Diane’s flash fiction appears in Ordinary Madness; her short fiction is published in A Coup of Owls. Diane served as Nine Mile Literary Magazine’s Assistant Editor after being Guest Editor for the Fall 2019 Special Double Issue on Neurodivergent, Disability, Deaf, Mad, and Crip poetics. Diane has published widely on Disability, education, accessibility, equity, and empowerment, among other subjects. She is a proud Neuroqueer, Mad, Crip, Genderqueer and Enby, Ashkenazi Jewish Hylozoist Nerd (etc.) who is honored to serve in the nonprofit sector–including as a Zoeglossia Board member. You can visit Diane online at: