Friday from the Archives: “The Things They Have To Endure To Stay Together”: A Conversation with Matthew Griffin by Jim Coby from NCLR 26 (2017).
It’s always exciting to read stories about older queers, especially since we have lost so many of them (people and their stories). Matthew Griffin’s first novel, Hide, explored the quiet relationship between two North Carolina men for their entire lives. Coby interviewed Griffin about how that story came to be. “I was thinking about [my grandparents]… , but also about, in general, what it would be like to sustain a relationship over such a long period of time: the sacrifices and compromises you have to make, and still, at the end, how tragic it is when the person inevitably dies. On top of all that, I thought about what it would have been like to have that same experience as a gay person in the middle of the twentieth
century, with all the added dangers and conflicts that would have entailed.”
Coby inquires about why Griffin doesn’t write his characters’ childhoods. Griffin replies, “we know from the beginning that Frank and Wendell have endured sixty years together and that their love has endured that time, so some of the angst of them as younger people coming to terms with his sexuality didn’t seem as dire to me.” So often queer communities are bearing witness to short lives lived, especially through the AIDS epidemic, so, it is heartening to bear witness to long lives lived, albeit fictional ones.
Griffin himself is no stranger to conflicts of visible long-term gay relationships: he and his husband were part of the vanguard applying for marriage licenses in Tennessee before and after the passage of the Marriage Equality Act. Appalachia is also the setting of the novel: the rural life both protects the couple but also hinders their own personal growth. Griffin explains, “Because they have disconnected from everyone in the world, as social attitudes have changed and made it so that they could actually live an open life, they don’t do that because they haven’t had contact with anyone who might give them a sense that it’s okay and that it’s safe.” Hiding becomes it’s own double-edged sword.
Griffin is a frequent guest in ECU English classes. Listen to a brand-new interview with Griffin and ECU alum Christopher Long on Long’s new Small World podcast.