Arts Desk

A Talk With Tom Moniz of Rad Dad

The zine community and the parental community usually don't mix. It's not common to see a happy family strolling through a zine convention—and that's a shame. After all, the anarchist/punk/revolutionary community is full of good parents. Take zinester, teacher, anarchist, and father Tom Moniz, who has produced 20 issues of the zine Rad Dad in the last ten years. Microcosm recently published Rad Dad: Dispatches From the Frontiers of Fatherhood, a book that collects the best pieces from the first 20 issues. Tomorrow night, Moniz will read selections from the book alongside Mark Andersen and Burke Stansbury at St. Stephen Church.

Washington City Paper: Why did you start making zines?

Tom Moniz: I started doing zines in the late '90s. Rad Dad came out of the zines I was already doing. I realized I was writing more and more about the struggles I was having with my almost teenage son.

WCP: Why did you start a zine in your late 20s?

TM: I had gone through schooling and was having this dilemma of having to write things that would be accepted to journals and editors and as I was becoming more radicalized in my involvement with the zine and activism in the Bay Area, I came across more zines. I realized I wanted to be part of that community.

WCP: Why not turn it into a blog?

TM: I try not to buy into the dicotomy of blogs vs. zines. When I started doing Rad Dad there wasn't a lot of easy access to computers, specifically for young fathers, fathers struggling financially, so if you can't access a computer, how would they find it? One of the contributors to the zine first saw a copy on a seat of the BART and wrote me an email after that.

WCP: Why do think people without children enjoy Rad Dad?

TM: It's good storytelling. Why do we like zines about a fishing woman in the Pacific Northwest like Xtra Tuf? It's really interesting seeing people think about the impact on their children, the way they were parented, how the legacy of those choices impact us.

WCP: How has your definition of anarchy changed?

TM: It's become more and more closer to the choices in my daily life. I became radicalized because I became a parent. How do the choices I make impact my partner, my family, my community? Struggling with the school system has been a big issue. I am a teacher and realize how limited it is for learning to take place in schools. My son was struggling so we sat down and figure out what we needed to do. He chose to home-school for two-and-a-half years and then go back into a high school. I keep encouraging my daughters to do the same and they want to stay.

WCP: Why do you show your family everything you publish?

TM: I show them everything I write. I've learned to show my daughters everything because I didn't show my son early on and should have.

WCP: How often have stories been vetoed?

TM: They're never vetoed but when I do a reading and they're there, they'll heckle me.

WCP: Why should people attend a reading?

TM: People come and share powerul stories. They're heartfelt, entertaining and sometimes hilarious. You can come or see a Disney movie.

WCP: Have you taken your children to a Disney movie?

TM: I've tried not to, but have.

WCP: Disneyland?

TM: I haven't, but they've gone with their friends.

WCP: Has the writing helped your relationship with your family?

TM: Writing about the way I want to live has helped me achieve that. It forces me to own it. Talking about how I want to parent, and even how I failed, is a good thing.

WCP: Do the other parents know you're doing this?

TM: I don't ever hide it but I don't talk about it. If I incorporate anyone else I show them the piece.

WCP: Any advice for young parents?

TM: Thank you. Being a young in age parent is a really, really difficult thing to do. The narrative of our society vilifies it. There are other people out there and now, as a parent of older children, it's nice to be able to tell them that they can do it. Talk with your children. All the awful things and all the pleasurable things too.

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