Notice of error regarding francine j. harris's Issue 6 interview
The following question and response were omitted from the first printing of Issue 6 without Ms. Harris’s knowledge or permission. We apologize for this and print the missing response in full here.
Are there any other labels that you fear being put upon you?
fjh: Labels are unavoidable. Of course, I wish we could all always digest writing on its own terms, but somehow we have to label it. I do it, too, and sometimes I’m not even sure why. There are probably labels that make me nervous, but generally, I must say I enjoy the conversations I see about my work so far, and the writers I find people putting my work in conversation with.
I guess to be honest, I’m probably most skeptical, or unsettled, when white people label me somehow as a black writer in lazy and/or irrelevant contexts. Unfortunately, I find many of those contexts irrelevant. Someone recently talked about this book as a treatment of the black female body, and it kind of sent me back to the work, like, Did I say I’m talking specifically about black women’s bodies? And though I was pleased with the overall discussion of the work, I was left wondering what in the book is signaling “black female” versus just... experience, surely often a woman’s experience, at times black, but often just experience. What is it in the reader that wants to exit access to my writing and wrench it from their own experience? I feel like I could pinpoint some of it, in some ways. But in other ways, it’s just odd. If a white woman signals race at some place in her writing (which they often do), no one talks about how the writing is treatment of the white woman’s body. And I get it, because the reality is the brown woman’s body is statistically more at risk, more objectified, at once cast as less effective and also more dangerous. But it’s funny to me because this book just flat-out has stories about white people in it. About white women’s bodies, specifically. Still, somehow because I’m a black woman I must be writing about black women. Sometimes I just think it’s unfortunate. A missed opportunity, to open up the thinking on this. I’m a black woman. Here are some poems. Labels are supposed to help us sift through important distinction. I don’t know that it is always an important or helpful distinction about this book. And then at the same time, at other times, I think, well, but I am speaking from this body, my brown body, and that is a thought behind the book, all the brown bodies of the women I care most about, worry most about, regret most not being able to keep safe. So it’s double-edged. And maybe it’s about being labeled versus being able to identify. But in answer to your question, that one most often gives me the most trouble.