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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (edition 2012)

by Ayana Mathis

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7216513,154 (3.57)32
Member:ozzer
Title:The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Authors:Ayana Mathis
Info:Knopf (2012), Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:African Americans, families

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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) by Ayana Mathis

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Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
This book surprised me into tears at the end. Not necessarily because of the ending itself, but because it had snuck up on me and touched me. The book is about Hattie and her 11 children and one grandchild - her tribes - and their lives. It starts when she is 16, and goes through to her 70s. The stories within are told from different perspectives and skip large chunks of time. I was sad for the pain her children were in, almost certainly traceable to her lack of open affection or tenderness with them. That aloofness, get-down-to-business-ness is explained in the first heartbreaking chapter, and just when you think Hattie has built an impenetrable wall around her heart, you get glimpses of her private life that show you the girl she once was. The writing is lovely and the voices are distinct; it's not a happy or easy read, but I would definitely recommend it. ( )
  MerryKat | Aug 19, 2014 |
Hattie was hard to like, but easy to identify with. The readers were OK but didn't keep me entirely engaged with the story, despite the dramatic story. ( )
  eenerd | Jul 30, 2014 |
Both touching and troubling, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie provides a glimpse of life during segregated America not typically portrayed; the North. ( )
  Birdo82 | Jul 26, 2014 |
I have actually been reading this book for a very long time and unfortunately lost interest in it for a while... It was just so depressing and sad all the things that happened to Hattie's children. I had to put it down for a while. I am happy I picked it up again... What I realize now is that while it is a novel it is very much like a book of short stories, one story about each of Hattie's children. It was a good read, just so sad... ( )
  TeaGirl43 | Jul 1, 2014 |
"...The plan seemed good to me, and I selected twelve of you, one from each tribe."
- Deuteronomy 1:22-23

I'm assuming that when most people see Oprah's stamp of approval on a novel, they will all read that novel and love it. I am usually dismissive of such novels as I was with The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. When it first came out, everybody I encountered was making such a big deal over it. I was like please, insert petulant eye roll here.

Now, here I am after almost a year since it came out, I have finally read The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and I pretty much loved it.

The story is simple: Hattie Sheperd is a fancy fifteen year old African American girl in the early 1920's. She hooks up with a young man named August, who is a ne'er-do-well, who knocks her up. They get married and move from Georgia to Philadelphia. Hattie gives birth to fraternal twins named Philadelphia and Jubilee. Unfortunately, they die when only a few months old.

After that devastating loss the couple never really quite recovered from emotionally, Hattie goes on to have nine more children. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is their stories along with Hattie's and August's. The twelfth tribesmember is a granddaughter named Sala.

I think the genius of this book is its simplicity. Ayana Mathis did a good job with bringing an individual voice to each child. It provided a snapshot into their lives whike providing a clearer picture of Hattie. The saddest aspect about this novel is that, maybe with the exception of Ella, none of the children were happy. They each had their own trials and tribulations, struggles and fears, with only the triumphs few and far in between.

It was realistic in that way. Children cannot grow up in an environment with a mother as seemingly cold and angry as Hattie was and not suffer any reprecussions. Life kicked the living daylights out of them where some were beyond reparations. But not all is bleak as there is hope for Sala.

All I can say is: you did good, Oprah. ( )
  Y2Ash | Apr 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie attempts to show the warping of the dreams of black Americans who hoped to find a better life in the urban North. This means not only must it bear the pressure of Ms. [Oprah] Winfrey's endorsement, but must also withstand comparisons to two of the epochoal works of American fiction, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Toni Morrison's linked trilogy Beloved, Jazz and Paradise (to say nothing of William Attaway's equally brilliant but underappreciated Blood on the Forge). Few debuts could survive this kind of scrutiny, and Ms. [Ayana] Mathis's doesn't come close. The numerous strands of the plot only sporadically and arbitrarily connect to one another, and Ms. Mathis lacks the skills that a more seasoned author might have to impose a narrative authority on them.
added by sgump | editWall Street Journal, Sam Sacks (Dec 10, 2012)
 
...
Ms. Mathis has a remarkable ability, however, to inject the most agonizing events with a racking sense of verisimilitude. The chapter in which Hattie desperately tries to keep her ailing twins alive (staying up with them for three nights in a row, making mustard poultices, walking in circles with them in her arms in a steam-filled bathroom) and the one in which she makes the agonizing decision to let her well-to-do sister in Georgia adopt her last child, Ella, in order to give the baby a better life, have an excruciating intimacy that makes us feel we are reliving events in our own families’ lives.
...
 
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Epigraph
All of you came to me and said, "let us send men ahead

of us to explore the land for us and bring back a report to

us regarding the route by which we should go up and the

cities we will come to."

  The plan seemed good to me, and I selected twelve of

you, one from each tribe.

-------------Deuteronomy 1:22-23
The house, shut up like a pocket watch,

those tight hearts breathing inside----

she could never invent them.

-------Rita Dove, "Obedience"
Dedication
For my mother

and for Grandmom

and Grandpop
First words
"Philadelphia and Jubilee!"  August said when Hattie told him what she wanted to name their twins.
Quotations
I don't know what's wrong with me.  It's not like I don't know I'm doing wrong or like I'm powerless to stop myself.   I just do what I'm going to do, despite what it will cost me.   After, I'm truly sorry.  I regret almost everything I've ever done, but I don't suppose that makes any difference.  ("Franklin," pp.171-172)
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Book description
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385350287, Hardcover)

Exclusive: Amazon Asks Ayana Mathis

Oprah and Ayana MathisOprah with Ayana Mathis, author of Book Club 2.0's December 2012 selection, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.

Q. Describe Oprah's Book Club 2.0® in one sentence (or, better yet, in 10 words).

A. An impassioned and powerful declaration: Books matter.

Q. What's on your bedside table or Kindle?

A. I'm often reading three or four things at a time, so I invent odd categories to keep them straight. The bedside table is home to read before-bed-but-not-on-the-subway books (heavy hardcovers like Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies), mysteries/thrillers (like Robert Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon) and things I ought to read but are slooow going (I am now on my fifth month with Augustine's The City of God).

Q. Top three to five favorite books of all time?

A.Very hard to answer! Beloved by Toni Morrison; The Known World by Edward P. Jones; Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner; Cane by Jean Toomer.

Q. Important book you never read?

A. Ulysses. And also Portrait of a Lady, which shames me.

Q. Book that changed your life (or book that made you want to become a writer)?

A. I wrote throughout my childhood and thought I wanted to be a poet, but that was more a fantasy than a goal. I was 15 when someone gave me Sonia Sanchez's, I've Been a Woman—that book was a revolution in my life. I realized that I actually could be a poet, that there were black women who were writing--right then, in that moment.

Q. Memorable author moment?

A. This one? I'm so new to being an author (distinctly different from the solitary enterprise of being a writer) that every moment is unforgettable and stunning.

Q. What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?

A. Anything Wonder Woman can do! Roping bad guys with a lasso of truth, deflecting bullets with my bracelets! Of course, I'd trade all of that for mindreading.

Q. What are you currently stressed about or psyched about?

A. I'm psyched about writing some essays on the nature of faith and belief. Writing essays is a very different process from writing fiction. I'm having a hard time with them, which is incredibly exhilarating and incredibly stressful.

Q. What's your most treasured possession?

A. My grandfather's diaries. He kept them secretly for over fifty years and gave them to me a few years before he died.

Q. Pen envy--book you wish you'd written?

A. Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah or Yusef Komunyakaa's Magic City.

Q. Who's your current author crush?

A. Eudora Welty. There's never a wasted word in her short stories; so much power and meaning packed into a few short pages.

Q. What's your favorite method of procrastination? Temptation? Vice?

A. That's an embarrassingly long list: clothes shopping online, returning clothes I've bought online, cooking elaborate time-consuming dinners, farmer's markets, Netflix Instant (grrr, it's ruining my life).

Q. What do you collect?

A. Ways to procrastinate.

Q. Best piece of fan mail you ever got?

A. Oh dear. I've never gotten any. I'm feeling a little inadequate now.

Q. What's next for you?

A. Trying to find a way into my second novel, the idea is there but the rest isn't. Right now it's a bit like stumbling around in a dark room.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:43:58 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother's monumental courage and the journey of a nation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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