- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 8, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307949702
- ISBN-13: 978-0307949707
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,528 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Paperback – October 8, 2013
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Exclusive: Amazon Asks Ayana Mathis
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?
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?
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.
“Astonishingly powerful. . . . Ms. Mathis gives us a haunting—and, yes, hopeful—glimpse of the possibility of redemption and the resilience of the human spirit.” —The New York Times
“A remarkable page-turner of a novel . . . spans decades and covers dreams lost, found and denied.” —Chicago Tribune
“Enthralling. . . . One remarkably resilient woman is placed against the hopes and struggles of millions of African Americans who held this nation to its promise.” —The Washington Post
“Captivate[s] from the first pages. . . . As certainly as August Wilson did in the plays of his twentieth-century cycle, Mathis is chronicling our nation.” —The Boston Globe
“Raw and intimate. . . . Gracefully told. . . . Deeply felt. . . . Compelling.” —The New York Times Book Review
“The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away. I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.” —Oprah Winfrey
“A triumph. . . . Magnificently structured, and a sentence-by-sentence treasure—lyric, direct, and true.” —Salon
“A dazzling debut, rich in language and psychological insight. . . . Mathis’s characters are those rarest of fictional creations: real living, breathing people.” —Huffington Post
“An intimate, often lyrical daisy-chain of stories. . . . We feel the exhilaration of starting over, the basic human need to belong, and the inexorable pull back to a place that, for better and worse, you call home.” —Vogue
“Like Toni Morrison, the author has a gift for showing just how heavily history weighs on families.” —Entertainment Weekly
“Stunningly good. . . . Blazes fearlessly into the darkness of divided spirits and hungry hearts.” —The Seattle Times
“Accomplished storytelling. . . . This brutal, illuminating version of the twentieth century African-American experience belongs alongside those of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and Zora Neale Hurston.” —Newsday
“Hypnotic. . . . In this evocative, ambitious novel, the tragedy is biblical, the reckoning stretches over generations, and a gravitas is granted to otherwise-invisible women and men.” —The Plain Dealer
“Beautifully imagined and elegantly written. . . . Ayana Mathis is a hugely talented writer who has authored a wise and ambitious first novel.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Visceral, heart-wrenching. . . . An exceptional first novel.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Written with elegance and remarkable poise. . . . [A novel] as much about our need for joy as it is about our struggles against bitterness.” —The Guardian (London)
“Astonishing. . . . Sounds a depth charge into a character’s life, a charge so powerful we forget we’re reading, we forget the long history of African-Americans in the twentieth century has already been told. We are simply with someone, on a journey, that began long ago and has one determined, sometimes deranged source. Her name is Hattie Shepherd and it’s a name you’ll hear a lot of in years to come.” —The Toronto Star
“Glistens with a quiet, hopeful beauty. . . . This book is a powerful ode to romantic and familial love.” —National Post
“Tough, truthful, wonderfully controlled writing. . . . This fresh, powerful first novel turns the lives of Hattie’s children into an epic of America in the twentieth century.” —The Times (London)
“An impressive debut: tender, tough and unflinching.” —Daily Mail
“Vibrant and compassionate. . . . The characters are full of life, mingled thing that it is, and dignified by the writer’s judicious tenderness towards them. This first novel is a work of rare maturity.” —Marilynne Robinson
“Beautiful and necessary from the very first sentence. The human lives it renders are on every page lowdown and glorious, fallen and redeemed, and all at the same time. They would be too heartbreaking to follow, in fact, were they not observed in such a generous and artful spirit of hope, in a spirit of mercy, in the spirit of love.” —Paul Harding
“Remarkable. . . .Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“An excellent debut. . . . Appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Stunning. . . . Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty.” —Booklist (starred)
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Top customer reviews
I believe she loved the children born after the twins, but chronic depression affected her in a way that was detrimental to their upbringing. Her husband August’s instability added to her depression.
Although August was unreliable as a husband and father, he had no difficulty expressing a little tenderness to his children. Yet August was a soft man who lacked character. He was too easy, too carefree, a spendthrift who enjoyed the bars, women and good times.
In essence, August was egocentric.
I loved Hattie’s character. I saw her as a strong woman, yet her grief kept her tethered to a man that caused a great deal of her emotional disability. She could not lift herself out of the mire from him.
Her brief affair with Lawrence showed her lack of direction. However, Lawrence made her feel good, made her laugh and gave her hope. But Lawrence’s compulsion would have spiraled out of control. Lawrence would have sent Hattie into a tailspin of profound depression. Lawrence could not offer her permanence and stability.
Hattie and August’s dysfunction and instability affected the children as adults. Their adult children had their own destructive behaviors and demons to deal with.
I enjoyed the book because I could imagine (Hattie’s sister) Pearl’s desperation for a child. I could imagine Hattie’s loss and the effects of depression on her psyche.
The writing was poignant, touched my heart, and made my eyes moisten at times. That in itself is a feat for a writer.
I would have liked the book to end with Bell, who I found destructive. I will not say more than that.
The only error I found was Lawrence’s discussion of Robert Kennedy in Bell’s chapter (1975). Robert Kennedy died June 6, 1968.
Errors happen in editing and in historical facts. No one knows this more than I do.
I suggest you read the book. It is a great read.