Matthew Aaron Goodman earned a BA from Brandeis University and an MFA from Emerson College, and benefited from the tutelage of Dr. Derek Hyra, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Arisa White, and asha bandele. Working hand and hand with formerly incarcerated men and women, he helped to create The Leadership Alliance, a community empowerment project with The Doe Fund that unites recently freed people and volunteer partners.
I write because I don’t know how to play an instrument; writing is my outlet. I’ve got a trumpet and a guitar, and I’ve taught myself how to play the piano a little by planting myself in music stores and picking at the plastic keys of synthesizers and keyboards, but to date, writing is the only place I can make music, sit down and play a song so to speak. Of course, as with playing a song well, writing requires one to sit down and rehearse the song again and again, manipulating the phrasing so how I feel is conveyed in the notes as much as the harmonious intentions of the composer. So I also love the depth and precision writing affords. Writing is an act of refining, of sculpting and discovering ways of speaking, creating connections between perceptions that cause visceral reactions. So it’s the pursuit of writing, of composing that phrase in a song, that succession of notes that makes you nod your head and say “hmmmm…” that has captured me and that I am passionate about.
Ella: Please introduce us to your new soul stirring book, Hold Love Strong.
Born to a thirteen-year-old in the bathroom of his family’s small apartment, Abraham Singleton enters a world laden with the obstacles inherent in an impoverished community. In spite of the crack epidemic and the HIV crisis that ravages his neighborhood, his family, the Singletons—cousins, an uncle, and aunt, Abraham and his mother—are held together by Abraham’s heroic grandmother, whose deep faith and stoic nature have always given them a sense of wholeness and hope.
But when the family goes through several harrowing losses, not even his grandmother may be strong enough to lead them through. At the center of this story is Abraham, the youngest of the Singletons. Deeply intuitive and cerebral, he is determined to thrive in a place that has destroyed the dreams of so many around him. College means opportunity, yet it also means leaving those he loves behind. Abraham’s journey into adulthood will break his heart but ultimately offer the possibility of redemption.
In this haunting, lyrical, and evocative novel, Matthew Aaron Goodman composes a paean to the power of family and belonging in the African-American community. Hold Love Strong is a spellbinding coming-of-age tale about love, hope, and the will to survive, and a stunning universal story about the incredible capacity of the human spirit.
Ella: What does Hold Love Strong offer the reader?
Hold Love Strong offers the reader an opportunity to invest themselves in the championing of a young man’s innate potential as he navigates and overcomes the harrowing conditions of his community. It is the chance to cheer for someone, to cry for them, to be reminded that all things are possible through love and hope.
Ella: Finish this sentence: I am Powerful because…
I am powerful because I question my power, because I know that individual strength, my independent capacity—be it to love or to lift or, god forbid, to hate.. I am powerful because I believe in our innate, universal potential to be humane. I am powerful because I understand that every day is a blessing that I share with everything that breathes air. I am powerful because I am not afraid to speak my truth.
Ella: Where are you from? How did you start your writing journey?
I grew up in a small town an hour north of New York City which because there were only a handful of Jews was, for all intents and purposes, the very far reaches of the Jewish Diaspora. This experience made me understand my difference, my otherness. It also afforded me the chance to love and appreciate people who—culturally, ethnically, and religiously—were unlike myself. Then, when I went off to college—at Brandeis University—I learned how important it is to be proud of my culture and identity. These two lessons, both forms of isolation because of difference, took time to navigate and unite into one formed identity and so had a tremendous amount to do with my journey as a human being and thus, this journey of writing. As for how I began writing, I don’t know. I do know that when I was a child I was very, very quiet, and to get me to talk, my mother would sit me at the kitchen table and have me tell her the stories of the people in the pictures in the magazine opened before me. So, I think it was there, participating in the oral tradition of storytelling, that I first began to write.
Ella: Who are your two main characters and what do you like most about them?
For me, the two main characters in Hold Love Strong are Abraham and his cousin, Donnel. How much they love each other, the lengths they will and do go to fortify and champion each other cannot be measured or described.
Ella: What is the most surprising thing you have learned in creating books?
Writing a novel is something you must pour your heart into. Afterwards, it becomes a business. I think a writer must never lose sight of writing as an art form, and accept that the business related to creating a book is not their realm of expertise.
Ella: What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?
Although the quick answer is the publication of Hold Love Strong, the truth is my most significant achievement is the fact that I have loved and remain very much in love with writing. It’s like a marriage. What is more significant? The day one gets married or all of the years one remains faithfully wedded?
Ella: What advice would you give a new writer?
Never let doubt infect you. Never let yourself think that what you are writing is more important than those you live and love with.
Ella: Name 3 things that it takes to make a successful author, in your opinion?
The. Belief. In Love.
“Matthew Aaron Goodman’s Hold Love Strong is a powerful and poignant story of the gallant Abraham who struggles on the night side of American society yet exudes a light of genuine hope…” -Dr. Cornel West, author of Race Matters and Democracy Matters
Book Reviews for Hold Love Strong
“The urgency of reading Matthew Aaron Goodman’s work is that he complicates what is too often made unrealistically simple: our understanding of ourselves and our neighbors. That he does so with such profound beauty only makes the experience of Hold Love Strong ever more incredible…” -asha bandele, author of The Prisoner’s Wife and Something Like Beautiful
“What a poignant book. The younger generation offers a wonderful writer!” -Nikki Giovanni, Poet
“Matthew Aaron Goodman writes with tremendous heart and gorgeous lyricsm. He loves the characters whose lives he chronicles, loves them in all their flaws, through all their missteps. He’s with them, celebrating their glories in ecstatic, ebullient riffs, and mourning their defeats with an unflinching compassion…” -Thisbe Nissen, Author of The Good People of New York and Osprey Island
“Goodman delivers a commanding investigation of love, family and freedom set in a New York City housing project…” –Publishers Weekly
Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of HOLD LOVE STRONG: A Novel