For issue 8, each editor selected their pieces based off of particular, meaningful themes. We’ve decided to publish these works as a folio in their specific genre so readers can feel how they interact and create a dialogue with each other. Get ready to read dangerously.
Nonfiction: Body of Evidence
Guest Editor: Karolyn Gehrig
In early April I hovered around the edges of a literary conference that had pushed disability from its panel schedule. Disabled writers were offered caucus instead, to discuss the issues facing our populace rather than those in our writing. The margins of the event seemed more welcoming. After conference hours one evening, I crashed a crowded party on a hip hotel rooftop that was theoretically accessible with some of my disabled friends. I like to move in a cool crip clique. If I am not with at least two or three other bold, disabled women at any given time, my well being suffers. If you’re disabled or chronically ill, you understand this.
Accessibility is wild. Accomplishing anything IRL involves pushing past the social barriers already in place for every able bodied person, then arriving at a set of circumstances that must be handled on an individual basis. Disability is wide ranging, and access comprises both the ability to identify problems as well as implementing an equitable solution.
Anyway, this beautiful sunset roof party was stuffed with well read bodies clustered together, exchanging cards and waiting to hear their favorite authors DJ. Our cool crip clique couldn’t find a place to sit, and wasn’t able to stand at the bar to get drinks. I plucked a waiter from her path running between the tables and bar to ask for her assistance in getting us drunk enough to talk to writers we hadn’t met yet. She saw the problem, and helped us secure spots on a banquette lining an edge of the rooftop.
We unwound in tequila drinks named for tropical birds. Our mobility issues kept us sunk into the banquette while people passed, looking for anyone they recognized. It was a networking party, and making it in the door, past the crowd, to our perch did not guarantee interaction. Our disabilities meant that rather than mingling, we would have to draw people to us. A couple paused near us and I took advantage of the moment.
“Hey. HEY!” I shouted at them from the sidelines. There is no slick way to handle drawing-attention-to-yourselves-beguilingly. They seemed bewildered, and when we beckoned, we explained that we didn’t know them but they looked cool. It turned into a conversation that delightfully roiled back and forth. JFR editor Corinne Manning was half of the couple. Before moving on, she gave me a small crystal.
Since announcing my guest editorship at the James Franco Review, I’ve been congratulated for both the job and the clout of its name. It did not take long for these well wishes to hammer in the invisible boundaries faced when submitting work for publication. I edited this because I made it through enough accessibility hoops to hang out on a balmy literary rooftop and meet someone interested in widening the path for other writers. The anonymity provided through the submission process became a relief, giving each piece the chance to create its own context.
I clung to the mandate ‘read dangerously’, and interpreted it to mean a narrative centered on the theme “Body of Evidence”, untethered from the primacy of identity. The pieces in this issue were not viewpoints I’ve read elsewhere, nor were they easily homed. This process was competitive, and it was a privilege to be flooded with such strong voices. Thank you for making it difficult to choose. Please write as much as you possibly can, and submit often. Make it so our lives are as visible as our identities.
See you on the rooftop.