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November 26, 2001

Carol Gee: A woman of many words

By Eric Rangus


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 Gee’s first book.

“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 I’ve reached 50, I’m 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 Gee’s 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 attempted—or had the opportunity to complete—a work of this magnitude.

The first-person essays, which cover a streamlined 100 pages, are arranged thematically into four chapters: “A Woman’s 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 Gee’s perspective—that of a middle-aged, African American woman—but the author hopes to reach a broad audience of women.

It’s 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 pieces—unwittingly,” she laughed. “He’s probably thinking, ‘I hope she doesn’t mention me.’”

For the record, Ron, Gee’s 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.
His response was, “You women obsesses about everything.”

That turned on a light in Gee’s mind—once 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 women.”

“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 we’re 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 Gee’s 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 that’s 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. Gee’s book will be avaliable for purchase next month on and Barnes & Noble online (

“I hope writing will be my new life,” Gee said. “What I’m starting to cultivate now is what I’d 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. That’s my dream. I have lots of stories in me, so I think I can fill up many books.”


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