“Telegram: A Collection of 27 Issues” is a zine anthology recently released by Canadian zinester Maranda Elizabeth. Throughout the 400-plus-page book, the author bravely and honestly relates their life over the past nine years. Maranda Elizabeth writes with truth, strength and vulnerability about struggling with mental illness–from listing a cocktail of medications they have taken over the years to dealing with determining just what their diagnosis was.
Throughout the book, Maranda Elizabeth shares the tales of numerous trips to and stays in the hospital—sometimes by choice, sometimes as a result of a suicide attempt. They discuss distrusting certain workers, never having a positive experience with a psychiatrist and numerous hospital attendants who were simply impolite over the smallest things, such as checking up on their status on a group therapy waiting list.
They do not spare the reader the gritty details; rather, they share the lowest points they have reached and teach (whether intentionally or not) the reader how to interact with someone with a mental illness. “Telegram” is an in-depth look inside the mind of someone taking life one day at a time. However, the book is not just several hundred pages of depressing discussion of life.
There is plenty of celebration. Maranda Elizabeth shares their happy days as well as their bad, talking of bike rides, ice cream socials and afternoons writing letters. They offer suggestions for surviving the winter with ideas ranging from burning scented candles to having a solo dance party, or knitting your own scarf to taking your pet’s photos with Santa.
The collection reflects Maranda Elizabeth’s own efforts to keep their head above water while living with an invisible disability. Being a collection of personal zines, “Telegram” can easily be described as a reflection of real life. This is not simply a fictitious novel attempting to communicate some life lesson; it is a book to be consumed much like reading someone’s journal or receiving a personal letter. In fact, numerous times Maranda Elizabeth includes a PO Box address requesting readers write to them. Writing letters is a significant theme throughout, often being suggested as a way to cheer up, communicate and survive. “Telegram” is a fantastic resource for both those with a mental illness and those just looking for ways to make their days a little better.
After reading, it is hard not to be inspired to spend a day outside reading or exploring your own small town. Maranda Elizabeth frequently discusses living in Canadian cities and both loving and hating them.
Small town life becomes a major topic throughout the book as they share stories of struggling to be comfortable and moving frequently in an attempt to find a place to call home. The book is a quick read, simply written–but it is not an easy journey. There are personal stories that will make readers cry with the author’s honest pain, but there are others that will make them smile and feel inspired. “Telegram” is an emotional roller coaster to reflect the ups and downs of the life it chronicles.
Maranda Elizabeth successfully draws readers into their world—you feel that anxiety they have when they share their period of agoraphobia; you feel that excitement at being accepted as an artist in residence; and you feel that struggle they face every day when making the simple (to most) decision of whether or not to even get out of bed.
Sonya Cheney can be contacted at