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Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Author Ayana Mathis

Reader Meet Author: Personal Advice from Author Ayana Mathis

Author: William Johnson

March 28, 2015

Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literature—or maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here at the Lambda Literary Review have started our very own advice column called “Reader Meet Author.”  Think of the column as a sort of a “Dear Abby” for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send “Reader Meet Author” questions for publication to

This month’s author is Ayana Mathis. Ayana Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the 2014-15 New York Public Library’s Cullman Center Fellowship. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, her first novel, was a New York Times Bestseller, a 2013 New York Times Notable Book of the Year , an NPR Best Books of 2013 and was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as the second selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Ayana taught Creative Writing at The Writer’s Foundry MFA Program at St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn. She is an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Dear Author,

I’d like to know how to shake up my dating life. For the last couple of years, I have been content with just meeting guys online for quick sexual hookups, but it is no longer novel; it’s become a mundane, frenetic habit of short-lived affairs. I think I want to start meeting people that are out and about and social, and experience that fun tingly butterfly feeling. I am ready for love.

But I have become so lazy, and by resorting to Grindr and Adam4Adam to meet guys, I no longer know where to meet people outside the “virtual” world. I want to put myself back on the substantive market, but where is the market nowadays? I really don’t know, but I want to find out. I mean, you go to the gay bars, and everyone is one on their phones!

I feel that I am limiting myself by relying on one source (the Internet) for meeting people. What do I do?


Ready For Love

Dear Ready For Love,

Aargh, the Internet! The saddest thing about Internet hookups, especially stuff like Grindr and Tinder, is that it has murdered the art of seduction. Even if you don’t want more than a night’s fun, everyone likes a little seduction; everyone loves the dance. It seems as though the first thing you need to do is find some real live human beings. How about starting with your friends and the people they might be able to introduce you to? Also, spring is springing! Go on a little excursion to the Hudson Valley or Long Island and keep your eyes peeled for your fellow day-trippers. And of course, the parks and flea markets, and damned near every outdoor space you can think of, will be full of boys. Some of them are also ready for love. You’ve got the unexpected on your side; all the fellas have gotten used to penis pics and cold, quick texts that only offer specs and logistics. Some good old-fashioned seduction will go a long way.

Here’s to the dance!

Dear Author,

I am out in every other aspect of my life—to my family and friends—but I’m having a hard time coming out at work. The environment I work in is very masculine; there is testosterone running rampant—I am an armed security guard. Nobody knows I am gay at work, but I know I would be much happier just being my big ole gay self at the job. I am a gay man, and there is an out lesbian at my job. My coworkers treat her with respect; the few woman coworkers converse with her, and the dudes want to be her friends, but I feel the outcome would be very different if I came out. I fear that all the men at my job will think I want to have sex with them. Any suggestions on how to handle this situation?


Slightly Closeted

Dear Slightly Closeted,

You’re in a tough spot, that’s for sure. I wish I could say with certainty that all of the dudes on your job will go on treating you as they always have. The hard reality is, as you fear, some of those relationships might change. But the good news is that other coworkers of yours will surprise you in the most wonderful way; people always do. And the best news is that it’ll lighten your load a lot; it sounds like you’re feeling burdened by not being able to be yourself at work.

These days, we’ve got some pretty amazing examples of people coming out in the testosteroniest environments out there—for instance, the NFL (with Michael Sam) and the gay men and women serving in the post-don’t-ask-don’t-tell military. In order to do what they did, all of those folks probably had to lean on the people who supported them in their professional and personal lives. It sounds as though you’ve got family and friends to rely on, even if (and especially if) the going gets a little rough at work.

Bon courage!

Dear Author,

I just moved to New York to get my MFA at NYU. I lived in a small town in Massachusetts but had a close-knit group of great queer friends. I am looking to make a new set of friends—you know, a set mainly of some arty and smart compatriots. Any ideas on how to make this happen? What is the best way to handle being a new slightly lonely lesbian in the big city? Where should I go to find a new group of cool lesbian running buddies in the Big Apple?


On the Look Out

Dear On the Look Out,

Welcome! And congratulations on surviving the worst winter ever. This is relevant to your plight; for the last few months, everyone has been huddled inside with their cats eating soup. But that’s all over now: birds are chirping, the bounce has returned to everyone’s step, and you know what they say about spring and the call of the wild…

Anyway, for starters, there’s the New York institution, the LGB&T Center on 13th Street; they have tons of events, cultural and otherwise. And surely, NYU has some kind of LGBT group. What about meet-up groups? There are so many—from photographer meet-ups to hiking groups to books clubs. Go hang out at the bookstore Bluetockings; they’ve got great events almost every night of the week and are super queer-friendly. And last but not least, our very own Lambda has its literary awards and hosts a summer workshop for queer writers, at which bookish ladies abound!

Happy Spring!


Photo credit: Elena Seibert
William Johnson photo

About: William Johnson

William Johnson is the former Deputy Director of Lambda Literary.

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