I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.
April 1, 2020: Allen Gee
I’m happy to introduce another Columbus, Georgia writer–Allen Gee–as the next writer in the series. Allen moved to Columbus in the fall of 2018, I believe, after teaching at Georgia College in Milledgeville for fourteen years, serving as the coordinator of the undergraduate creative writing concentration and the graduate (M.F.A.) program. Currently he teaches at Columbus State University, where he is the Donald L. Jordan Endowed Professor of Creative Writing. And just look at all the great things he’s making happen.
Service trips abroad, for one thing. In fact, if not for Covid-19, he would be writing to us from Guatemala. Allen has also established an annual writing competition that offers publication in addition to the $10,000 prize–The Donald L. Jordan Prize for Literary Excellence. This year’s judge was Rosellen Brown. He has also created The Columbus State University Creative Writers Conference, which will take place here on Oct. 24, 2020. The conference is all about community and will be open to the public.
Allen’s first book, My Chinese-America, a collection of eleven essays, was itself a prize winner for SFWP’s national contest, judged by Lee Gutkind, and published by SFWP in 2015. From Kirkus Reviews, “In this collection of essays, Gee engagingly probes his thoughts about living as a man of Chinese origin in the United States.”
Allen was born in Astoria in Queens and raised in New York. Here’s an excerpt from the book from his essay, “Is It Safe There?”
These days, I fondly recall accompanying my grandfather on his self-appointed rounds, but as more and more of the Chinatown I knew vanishes, I have the sense that more of my own history is disappearing, and so part of my self seems to be winnowing away, like I am slowly being erased. I’m let feeling less and less connected to where I once felt the most culturally anchored and secure and alive.”
And in his essay, “Fraught With Masculinity,” he writes, “What I intuited before the age of twelve was how American representations of Asians failed to correspond with who I was…” In this same essay, he writes about asking the poet Adam Zagajewski, as they were leaving a literary gala, “Is there civilization amongst the tuxedos?” Zagajewski replied no, that civilization “is within yourself.”
In the title essay, which is divided into fifty sections, one for each state, here’s an excerpt from Georgia.
My wife’s family is from Atlanta; her grandfather was Bobby Lee Dodd, a legendary football coach at Georgia Tech, named for General Robert E. Lee. My wife gave birth two years ago to our daughter, Willa Margie Dodd Gee. We would have named a son Carter Bobby Dodd Gee. That I could be born in the North, migrate to the South, and potentially have a son named for a Confederate general strikes me as astonishing and uniquely American.
Allen studied for his M.F.A. at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and he is now the designated biographer for the late James Alan McPherson, his mentor at Iowa. I don’t know how he finds the time, but Allen is also currently finishing up a novel, The Iron Road, that chronicles the history of Chinese railroad workers who built the Central Pacific line in California in 1866.
I will leave you with this photo of the two of us in downtown Columbus back in October. Stay well and…
Come back on APRIL 1st to read how ALLEN GEE spends his days.