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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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986828,702 (3.55)39
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 by Ayana Mathis

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Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
This book really struck a chord with me. This would be a good choice for a book club, there is much fodder for discussion: analyzing all the characters motives, the roots of everyone’s unhappiness, the historical significance of The Great Migration, etc.

I just wish it had been a continuous narrative instead of split into a series of vignettes told from different points of view. Although I thought this was very well-written and it evoked strong emotions, I didn’t think the voices were distinct enough. I look forward eagerly to the next offering from this author.
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  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
I so wanted to love this book chronicling the Great Migration through the lens of Hattie and her many offspring. Hattie, her mother and sisters fled Georgia for the North in 1925. Landing in Philadelphia, Hattie faces the oncoming turmoil of multiple decades (ending in 1980) with varying degrees of dignity, resignation and anger. The author seems quite taken with the BIG IDEA tackling racism, sexism, infidelity, pedophilia, homosexuality, schizophrenia and poverty in successive chapters. Any of these topics would be sufficient fodder for a splendid book. Each topic gets a nod before we fly off onto the next one. Mathis is a promising and evocative writer who handles dialogue particularly well. Her introductory chapter is by far the best -- Hattie's deep love for her infant twin children is palpable. I was quite affected by her desperation over their worsening health. I look forward to reading her next effort -- if she hasn't used up all her ideas in this debut effort. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Mar 4, 2016 |
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

★★★ ½

Description off Amazon: 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 luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.

This just doesn’t seem to be my month for books. Everything I’ve picked up I’ve really wanted to love (because who picks up a book to hate it?) but everything has been so-so and this book is no different. When picking it up from the library, my first clue it wouldn’t be a favorite is it’s an Oprah Book Club book, those books rarely have a good effect on me. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the book, I just didn’t love it. I had a surge of feelings and love for the character, Hattie, right away, I just connected to her. The narratives of her children though were hit and miss with me and at times I just found the book boring. I understand and appreciate the concept of where this book was going and its meaning. It was beautifully written, unforgettable, and full of significance but I just kept grasping for something more that just wasn’t there, which led me to give it the star rating I did.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
4 stars for the writing. I did not really like Hattie although nearer the end of the book I warmed to her a bit more. I could not believe that all her children could be so miserable. Surely some of them could have been happy. It was a rather depressing book. ( )
  scot2 | Feb 6, 2016 |
Book on CD performed by Andrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Adam Lazarre-White


In 1923 fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, along with her mother and sister, left their Georgia home for a new start North of the Mason-Dixon line. They thought they would find a better life in Philadelphia. But Hattie got pregnant by and married a man who would prove to be a huge disappointment. Her first-born twins die of an infection that a little penicillin might have cured. Hattie never gets over their loss, but raises her other nine children with grit and determination, if not much tenderness.

The novel is told in twelve chapters, each detailing the story of one of Hattie’s children or grandchildren, over six decades, and reads more like a collection of short stories than a cohesive novel with a single story arc. The book jacket implies that Mathis based the novel on the history of the Great Migration, when African Americans fled the deep south for the hope of better jobs in the north. Some prospered, finding good factory jobs on which salaries they could support a growing family. Some floundered, succumbing to the temptations of the big city streets, gambling, juke joints, and drinking. Some of them returned to the south. But because she focuses on this one dysfunctional family, she loses the larger picture.

I like the way that Mathis uses the stories of Hattie’s eleven children and one grandchild to illustrate so many possibilities. In one family, especially when including Hattie’s sisters Pearl and Marion, there are huge disparities in fortune – a professional man who owns his own business, contrasted with a woman facing eviction for nonpayment of rent. Some of them find solace in religion; some seek it in the bottle. Some have strong marriages; others seem incapable of forming any lasting relationship.

I found myself angry with several of the characters, for their lack of integrity or ambition or motivation, and yet I understood that poverty can result in isolation and hopelessness. I know, too, that the issues facing these characters – sexual identity, mental illness, poverty, abandonment, discrimination, marital infidelity – are difficult to handle when you have a strong support network, and virtually impossible to overcome when you are emotionally isolated.

This is Mathis’ debut novel and I see evidence of a great writing talent. I’ll probably read another book by her. But at the end of THIS novel I find myself struggling to explain my reactions to the book, as much as Hattie’s children struggled to make a good life after being raised by such seemingly uncaring parents.

The audio version is performed by three talented voice artists: Andrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Adam Lazarre-White. I think this contributed to the feeling that this was a collection of stories rather than a novel.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:35 -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)

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