Dear Francine Prose

This is a guest post from Tajja Isen. Tajja is a Toronto-based writer and voice actor. Her work has appeared in Electric Literature and in literary journals across Canada. You may have heard her voice on such cartoons as The Berenstain Bears, Atomic Betty, and The ZhuZhus, among others. She is currently completing a JD/MA in Law and English at the University of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @tajjaisen.


  1. I have not read your piece in the New York Review of Books.
  2. I will not read your piece in the New York Review of Books.
  3. I have, however, hit CTRL-F to search for the following words: “imagination,” “human being,” “qualified,” “experience,” and “censorship.”
  4. All five are present and accounted for.
  5. I feel like I have basically read your piece in the New York Review of Books.
  6. The argument is a little derivative.
  7. Derivative in the way that writing a novel about a writing workshop is derivative (which I read and liked about 80% of).
  8. Have you met Joyce Carol Oates?
  9. I think you should be friends with Joyce Carol Oates.
  10. What about Lionel Shriver?
  11. You two could go hat shopping together.
  12. I understand you wrote a novel about a monkey.
  13. I’m starting to be a little worried that you wrote a novel about a monkey.
  14. That’s one way to get around the “cottage industry” of sensitivity readers.
  15. Okay, so I read your piece in the New York Review of Books.
  16. If a child accidentally discovers a piece of racist literature that her grandmother has tucked away in her attic, what we tell the child is not that “once it was considered okay to picture black people that way.”
  17. What we tell the child is that it has never been, nor will it ever be, okay to picture black people that way.
  18. What will truly “enable [you] to consider what it means to be a human being” is to address, and redress, whom you think of as counting as a human being in the first place. Fiction will only get you partway.
  19. I know it’s easier to traffic in anthropomorphized monkeys. But try this: use your imagination.
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