It only takes a few clicks to start making a WordPress or Squarespace site. Social media allows us to share everything from political opinions to avocado toast tableaus with ease. But despite—or maybe because of—the tech-centric time we live in, the appeal of a handmade and hyper-personal mode of expression endures. And zines, a form favored by sci-fi fans, punks, riot grrls and sundry other subcultures over the decades, aren’t hard to find around town right now.
“Our customers love the zines here!” says Holly Sullo, an artist and the lead bookseller at Trident Booksellers & Cafe, which has expanded its selection from a small shelf in the graphic novel department to a whole section on the magazine rack in recent months. Currently it stocks mini-comics distributed by Chicago’s Radiator Comics and how-to and political zines from Oregon’s Microcosm Publishing, including titles like Let’s Talk About Your Uterus and How Not to Kill Yourself: A Survival Guide for Imaginative Pessimists. “They’re small, affordable and have such a beautiful sense of personality,” Sullo says. “It’s like Christmas every time we get a new shipment.”
Zines by local makers are making their way to shelves too. Cambridge shop/studio Practice Space’s offerings include Somerville artist Tim Devin’s What Are you Raising Them For?, a zine on 1970s hippie parenting, and his new release Mapping Out Utopia, which explores Cambridge counterculture in the ’70s. (Mark your calendar for Practice Space’s Sept. 9 walking tour of Inman Square sites featured in its pages.) And both Practice Space and Salem’s HausWitch carry Good Habits, a zine on mental health and self-care by Somerville artist Danielle Freiman, who also sells her zines and others’ in her online shop Small Supply.
Lots of such zinesters will convene for the second annual New Zineland fest, a free, all-ages event set to bring workshops, readings and more than 50 vendors to the Cambridge Elks Lodge on Aug. 20. They’ll include local activists like Dawn Graham of Stay Kind!, who donates a portion of all sales to support initiatives like the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, and Nicole Mazzeo of Pleasure Pie, who makes sex- and body-positive zines like Choose Your Own Consensual Adventure. And New Zineland organizer Caitlin Kenney will be launching her own SEEK & FIND Boston zine series, focused on free and low-cost resources and recreation in Boston, from women’s self-defense classes to affordable theater. She’s zealous about zines’ appeal. “I like something tangible. And quite frankly, I’m tired of reading words off screens,” Kenney says. “I think you have a bit more control over who you’re getting your messages out to based on your distribution. The internet opens it up to the world, but there’s definitely a sense of community when you’re trading something you’ve spent a lot of time to make with someone else and their work. There’s a lot more love in it.”
Even some members of Gen Z embrace that idea. New Zineland’s lineup will also include Manhater Gazette (the name is tongue in cheek), a zine produced by a feminist collective at Brookline High School. “These are all teen girls putting themselves and their writing out there into the local zine scene,” Kenney says, “which is incredibly inspiring to see.”