By Morgan Coyner
“Minority writers really do need outlets for publishing,” says Allen Gee, editor of 2040 Books. “They need to know that their work is being considered by the most favorable editors, where bias about race or culture is not a factor. I think the impulse and idea behind 2040 is to begin to address that.”
The statistics on race in the publishing world are alarming to some, yet all too familiar for most writers of color, with over 80% of editorial staffers being white, according to Publisher’s Weekly. An even higher number of reviewers—89%—are white. Because white authors and white characters comprise the majority of published books, Gee wanted to create a space where writers of color would not be pigeonholed but could share their own stories on their own terms.
It was with this in mind that 2040 Books launched their inaugural contest, whose judge, according to Gee, ought to be someone well known in the literary field. This led him to Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day, PYM, and other novels and graphic novels. Johnson is an accomplished author and outspoken about social justice on Twitter.
Gee published his first book with Santa Fe Writer’s Project in 2015. The essay collection, entitled My Chinese America, explores different facets of Gee’s life over the years, from basketball and fishing to Chinatown and Asian masculinity. Through these essays, Gee explores his own identity and its perception by those around him, using personal anecdotes to share the world as he sees it.
His publishing experience was the reason he wanted to partner with SFWP to start 2040 Books. Gee says, “A lot of people have nightmare stories in publishing, but I’m almost afraid to admit that I have not had any difficulties or problems with My Chinese America.” The combination of SFWP’s twenty years of experience in the industry with the vision of diversity through the 2040 Books imprint is promising.
The name 2040 Books is a nod to the year 2040, the decade that minorities will reportedly outnumber Caucasians in the USA. We are currently twenty-three years from that date with much work left to do to address the race gap in publishing. Gee’s own book was the first essay collection published by a Chinese American male in its decade. Another ten years should not go by before the world sees another set of essays by a Chinese American male.
2040 Books is supported by Georgia College and State University, where Gee works as the director of the MFA program. “Grad students are working, learning, and getting professional experience, building their CVs and resumes,” Gee says. These students have a passion for the message of 2040, that underrepresented voices should be given a microphone in which to speak and a high-tech speaker system to amplify them.
2040 and SFWP are excited to work together to share the stories of people of color. Be sure to check out the 2040 Books webpage for more information about the imprint and their inaugural contest. Submissions close on July 7, 2017.
Read what’s on Allen’s bookshelf
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang
The Round House by Louise Erdich
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Allen’s to-be-read list
Morgan Coyner is the Director of Publicity for 2040 Books and a second year student at Georgia College pursuing her MFA as a fiction writer. Her work has been published in Lunch Ticket and Allegory Ridge. Her favorite Taylor Swift album is Red, and she feels most at home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She tweets all the random thoughts that enter her mind at @MCoynz.