November 26, 2001
Carol Gee: A woman of many words
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
As my 50th birthday loomed just over the horizon, I made a life-altering
decision. Instead of obsessing over my uniquely female foibles, I would
embrace them, maybe even write about them.
Those are the first two sentences of a breezy little essay titled Nothing
But a Number, the first of 30 vignettes that make up The Venus
Chronicles: Musings from the Feminine Side, Carol Gees first
When things move me, I write about them, said Gee, coordinator
of educational programs for the Center for Public Health Practice in the
Rollins School of Public Health. As Ive reached 50, Im
thinking about where I am going in the second half of my life.
Gee is 51 now, although she looks to be at least 10 years younger. Her
youthful appearance is due not just to looks, but also to attitude. The
vibrancy with which Gee attacks everything in life is so strong, it practically
has its own parking space.
The Venus Chronicles is Gees first major work. She has had
several poems published in literary magazines and she has written a handful
of essays for newsletters, but has never attemptedor had the opportunity
to completea work of this magnitude.
The first-person essays, which cover a streamlined 100 pages, are arranged
thematically into four chapters: A Womans Place, Body
Beauty, From the Outside In and Back in the Day.
Essay subjects range from the broadly humorous (Closet Full of Clothes
But Nothing to Wear, Layaway, the Zen of Waiting) to
the eerily specific (Girdles, Unfriendly Panties).
The tone is light, conversational, inspiring and incredibly positive.
Each of the pieces is written from Gees perspectivethat of
a middle-aged, African American womanbut the author hopes to reach
a broad audience of women.
Its easy to see how a book called The Venus Chronicles (not
to mention one that discussed girdles) would appeal to women. But what
about men? Well, Gee said she hopes the humor is universal. She added
that several of the pieces attempt to perform a public service, such as
answering the question, Why Do Women Go to the Restroom in Pairs?
And any essay titled, S-E-X, would cause most males to stop
thumbing through pages for at least a moment.
Gee said that she has tested several pieces on her husband as well. Sometimes
he has been inspiration for the piecesunwittingly, she laughed.
Hes probably thinking, I hope she doesnt mention
For the record, Ron, Gees husband of 28 years, is assistant director
of nutrition and restaurant services at Emory Hospital, and if she mentions
him, he will probably hear about it.
Although she has written for herself all her life, The Venus Chronicles
began coming together in 1999. Gee and her husband were hosting a longtime
family friend, Yolanda Johnson (the first person thanked on the acknowledgements
page), for dinner. Ron left the two women to themselves for a while, and
when he returned, he heard them in the midst of women talk,
as Gee described it.
That turned on a light in Gees mindonce she was finished
scolding her husband.
Sometimes [women] obsess about things, Gee said. We
obsess about bad hair days. We think about how we look. If people say
something to us, we analyze it. If a woman says, You look good today,
you think, Today? How about yesterday? Yesterday, I had on my Gucci
suit and my matching shoes.
What my pieces try to do, is to entertain, educate and empower
Obsessions, in fact, is the third essay in the book. Like
practically all of The Venus Chronicles, it contains savvy observations
(All some of us have to do is look in the mirror to see our worst
enemy looking back at us) followed by a healthy dose of the power
of positive thinking: Our energy is better spent on things that
will help us become healthier, more productive and creative individuals.
The bottom line is these things are not important, so we should
stop obsessing about them, Gee said. I just try to put an
issue out and inspire people to think a different way. You know, we might
have a bad hair day, but were lucky we have hair on our head.
That got Gee thinking more and writing more. Essays flowed freely. When
Gee would write, she would share her work with friends. Women at Emory
would e-mail glowing reviews to her. They would share her writings with
neighbors, sisters, mothers and daughters. Some would stop her in the
parking lot or outside the office and offer suggestions of new subjects.
One friend took it a step further.
She put Gee in contact with Valerie Boyd, a former writer for The
Atlanta-Journal Constitution who was finishing up a biography of author
Zora Neale Hurston. Boyd, who had read several of Gees pieces, passed
them along to Kelley Alexander, who had started a small publishing company
in Decatur called InnerLight Publishing. Alexander liked what she read,
and thats how The Venus Chronicles was born.
The book is due to be released Dec. 10, and as part of its accompanying
promotion, Gee will be signing copies in the Rita Anne Rollins Room in
the Rollins School of Public Health from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 18.
All members of the Emory community are invited. Gees book will be
avaliable for purchase next month on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble
I hope writing will be my new life, Gee said. What
Im starting to cultivate now is what Id like to do in my third
career, her first two being an eight-year stint in the Air Force,
followed by 21 years in higher education instruction and administration.
I hope this is the beginning. Thats my dream. I have lots of stories in me, so I think I can fill up many books.