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A Comics expo, a new book on looking with Black artists, and poetry imagining Robert Burns in Jamaica

Local comic artist Joel Christian Gill will appear at the MICE event in Central Square.Joel Christian Gill

Comics for all

The Massachusetts Independent Comic Expo (MICE), now in its eleventh year, was born as a way for Boston-area comics artists and enthusiasts to gather, learn, and honor the artmaking process of comics, aiming its attention less on merch and more on celebrating the creative aspect of the art. Last year, due to the pandemic, they moved the expo online, and this year they’re making an in-person return, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. On August 28-29 from noon-4:30 pm at Starlight Square in Central Square in Cambridge, they’ll be holding Mini-MICE, a free, open-air event bringing together 64 Massachusetts-based comics artists. The workshops and panels are on hold this year, but the exhibitors represent a diverse and highly talented cross-section of local comics artists, including Bryce Davidson, Dave Ortega, Cathy G. Johnson, Cagen Luce, Karl Stevens, Sayyid Lestrade, Sarah Shaw, Joel Christian Gill, and a number of others. MICE is also offering a “mini-grant showcase”: they’ll be offering 30 artists $100 cash awards for “outstanding new mini-comics” to “directly support creators and offset print production costs.” It’s open to comics worldwide, and the submission deadline is September 1. For more information on the grants and a complete schedule of the expo, visit micexpo.org.


Black arts

In “A Black Gaze: Artists Changing How We See” (MIT Press), Tina M. Campt, a professor of Humanities and modern culture at Brown, writes of Black artists who are overturning traditional ways of seeing blackness, ushering in “a Black gaze that shifts the optics of ‘looking at’ to a politics of looking with, through, and alongside another.” It is a gaze, she writes, “that requires effort and exertion.” The book, divided into seven “verses,” looks at photographers Deana Lawson and Dawoud Bey; filmmakers Arthur Jafa, Jenn Nkiru, and Kahlil Joseph; and multimedia artists Simone Leigh, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Luke Willis Thompson. The book includes a number of lush reproductions. Lawson’s photographs are disarming in their intimacy; stills from Joseph’s “Wildcat” show spotlit dust-raising rodeos; a series of Bey’s photographs demonstrate through-provoking juxtapositions. “We find ourselves in the midst of a Black renaissance,” Campt writes, and with elegance and probing intellect, she examines artists that “make audiences work,” ones that ask a radical question: “rather than simply multiplying the representation of Black folks, what would it mean to see oneself through the complex positionality that is blackness — and work through its implications on and for oneself?”


Burns in Jamaica

In an act of imaginative virtuosity, Jamaican-born poet Shara McCallum wonders what might’ve been if poet Robert Burns, “arguably the most well-known Scot,” had left his Scottish home for Jamaica in 1786, as had been his plan, to work as a bookkeeper on a slave plantation. But bookkeeper is a misnomer, McCallum points out: “Had he gone to Jamaica, he would have been directly involved in the operation of the plantation, responsible for overseeing and managing the work performed by enslaved Africans.” The poetry collection that rises out her ­what-if question, “No Ruined Stone,” published recently by the Maine-based Alice James Books, is arresting, lyrical, wrestling with colonialism, racism, and the knotted legacy of slavery. McCallum inserts herself into Burns; many of the poems are voiced from his perspective. “What in man yokes us to the past?” she asks, and writes of being “harrowed by the feeling of the damned.”


Coming Out

A World Without Police: How Strong Communities Makes Cops Obsoleteby Geo Maher (Verso)

Seeing Ghostsby Kat Chow (Grand Central)

Not ‘A Nation of Immigrants’: Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusionby Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon)

Pick of the Week

Yu-Mei Balasingamchow at Papercuts J.P. in Jamaica Plain, recommends “Sharks in the Time of Saviors” by Kawai Strong Washburn (Picador): “This is the Hawai’i you don’t usually hear about. A working-class family struggles to make ends meet, the children to get through school and figure out who they are, especially after something magical (?) happens to the middle child, Nainoa. Completely absorbing, sometimes heartbreaking, always thought-provoking. I loved this family so much!”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Wake, Siren.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.