Episode 12: Alexander Chee

Host Rachel Yoder talks with ALEXANDER CHEE at Prairie Lights during the 2017 Iowa City Book Festival about how to mentally prepare for a book’s publication, the trials & tribulations of a 15-year novel project, & his ingenious journaling system that keeps him on task.

 

ALEXANDER CHEE is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Tin House, Slate, Guernica, NPR and Out, among others. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He has taught writing at Wesleyan University, Amherst College, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Texas – Austin. He lives in New York City, where he curates the Dear Reader series at Ace Hotel New York.


How To Write an Autobiographical NovelAs a novelist, Alexander Chee has been described as “masterful” by Roxane Gay, “incomparable” by Junot Diaz, and “incendiary” by the New York Times. With How to Write an Autobiographical Novelhis first collection of nonfiction, he’s sure to secure his place as one of the finest essayists of his generation as well.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is the author’s manifesto on the entangling of life, literature, and politics, and how the lessons learned from a life spent reading and writing fiction have changed him. In these essays, he grows from student to teacher, reader to writer, and reckons with his identities as a son, a gay man, a Korean American, an artist, an activist, a lover, and a friend. He examines some of the most formative experiences of his life and the nation’s history, including his father’s death, the AIDS crisis, 9/11, the jobs that supported his writing–Tarot-reading, bookselling, cater-waiting for William F. Buckley–the writing of his first novel, Edinburgh, and the election of Donald Trump.

By turns commanding, heartbreaking, and wry, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel asks questions about how we create ourselves in life and in art, and how to fight when our dearest truths are under attack.

Rachel