Writer of Color: Ayana Mathis

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Photo of POC writer Ayana Mathis from salon.com

Quick Facts on POC Writer Ayana Mathis

  • Born 1973
  • Attended Iowa Writers’ Workshop
  • Currently teaches creative writing at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
  • Her debut book The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0

Biography of POC Writer Ayana Mathis

Ayana Mathis was born in 1973 and raised only by her mother in Philadelphia. While she always enjoyed writing, it was never something she considered to be a career. In several different interviews, she talks about her surrender to writing only after meeting with friend and novelist Justin Torres at Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Her debut novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie became a national bestseller. She currently teaches creative writing at Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is at work on her second novel.

About POC Writer Ayana Mathis’s Writing

It may be difficult to describe Mathis’s writing as a whole, simply because she only has one book, which was published back in 2012. And because writers grow, develop and mature, it’s hard to say exactly how she writes in general when the pool of samples is only one.

However, inarguably, Mathis is able to expertly dissect the complexity and depth of human emotion. In The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, each character is fully explored in the context of their central struggle and emotional essence, so to speak.

In an essay syndicated on guernicamag.com, Mathis discusses her journey as a writer and the trouble people of color have with assessing their right to impractical urges, such as the pursuit of a writing career. Read her story here. It is well worth your time. 

Quotes from POC Writer Ayana Mathis

“It isn’t always true that failure has direct correlation to insufficient grit or ambition. We resist the fact that race and class play a significant role in what we want and whether we are provided with the tools to make an attempt at getting it.”

“You have to find a way of shutting the future out and focusing on the writing. One of the problems I’ll have with writing my second book is getting back into a situation where I think about the words on the page rather than the publishing industry, or success, or any kind of readership I may now have. I’ll have to do what writers do, which is focus on the story and nothing else.”

“Racial terrorism affects the lives of white people and black people and everyone, everything. Racism is contaminating. It can affect the dogs in the street. So the process of beginning to rid the country of prejudice was in itself a kind of nation-building.”

Mathis also did several interviews (or one lengthy interview) with Oprah. There are many articles available from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.

Works by POC Writer Ayana Mathis

2012 The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

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