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The colorful world of comics

Henry Louis Gates has praised “Strange Fruit” for telling the stories of “extra-ordinary-ordinary black folks making ‘a way out of no way,’ ”

Henry Louis Gates has praised “Strange Fruit” for telling the stories of “extra-ordinary-ordinary black folks making ‘a way out of no way,’ ”

The colorful world of comics

Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner, coauthors of a new history of comics, are by no means wedded only to the past. Cofounders of the Boston Comics Roundtable, which meets in Harvard Square and publishes anthologies of local artists’ work, both are active in the current scene.

Their new book, “Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present” (Thames & Hudson), focuses on Japan, western Europe, and North America. The late 1960s marked a turning point in how comics were perceived. As Mazur and Danner write in their richly illustrated history, “By the end of the [1960s], the idea that comics might be an important means of communication, even as an art form, was conceivable, if not yet fully accepted.” Mazur and Danner will talk about that art form at 7 p.m. Friday at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge.

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The Boston area boasts a handful of comics outposts as well as a lively community of artists. In addition to Million Year Picnic, one of the nation’s oldest comic-book specialty stores, in Harvard Square, there is JP Comics & Games in Jamaica Plain and Comicopia in Kenmore Square. In Somerville’s Union and Davis squares, there is Hub Comics and Comicazi, respectively.

Perhaps the best known local comics artists are Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, who illustrate the monthly comics “Adventure Time” (Kaboom!), an extension of the popular animated TV series. Other notables include Liz Prince, whose autobiographical graphic novel “Alone Forever: The Singles Collection” (Top Shelf) looks at love and dating and Jesse Lonergan, whose “All Star” (NBM) is about the trepidations of a baseball star as the end of high school looms.

Another member of the Boston Comics Roundtable is writer-illustrator Joel Christian Gill, who was in New York last week to sign his new book, “Strange Fruit, Volume 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History” (Fulcrum), at BookExpo America, the publishing industry’s annual extravaganza. On June 18 at 7 p.m., he’ll be at Harvard Book Store. The talk is cosponsored by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. And no less a scholar than Hutchins Center director Henry Louis Gates Jr. has heaped praise on Gill’s work. Gates calls the heroes of “Strange Fruit” “extraordinary-ordinary black folks making ‘a way out of no way.’ ”

And the winner is . . .

Carla Kaplan, a professor of American literature at Northeastern University, is the 2014 winner of the Boston Authors Club’s Julia Ward Howe Award for “Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance” (HarperCollins). “Miss Anne” is a term applied to white women who played a role in the Harlem Renaissance, some of them as philanthropists or editors. Howe, an abolitionist who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” was a cofounder in 1899 of the club. The annual award recognizes literary achievement by a Boston area author.

Coming out

 “Written in My Own Heart’s Blood”by Diana Gabaldon (Delacorte)

 “The Rise & Fall of Great Powers”by Tom
Rachman
(Dial)

 “Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves”by Laurel Braitman (Simon & Schuster)

Pick of the Week

Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “The Secret Life of Violet Grant” by Beatriz Williams (Putnam): “New York’s Upper East Side during the 1960s is connected to Berlin during World War I when a suitcase arrives in Vivian’s apartment, bringing an array of secrets into her life. In this novel of familial intrigue, no one will talk about Aunt Violet, the owner of the suitcase.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@ yahoo.com.
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