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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) Hardcover – December 6, 2012
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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.
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a vibrant and compassionate portrait of a family hardened and scattered by circumstance and yet deeply a family. Its language is elegant in its purity and rigor. 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. "
"The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is 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. Ayana Mathis has written a treasure of a novel."
“Writing with stunning authority, clarity, and courage, debut novelist Mathis pivots forward in time, spotlighting intensely dramatic episodes in the lives of Hattie's nine subsequent children (and one grandchild to make the ‘twelve tribes’), galvanizing crises that expose the crushed dreams and anguished legacy of the Great Migration…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.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred)
“Remarkable…Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Cutting, emotional…pure heartbreak…though Mathis has inherited some of Toni Morrison’s poetic intonation, her own prose is appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious…an excellent debut.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
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Top Customer Reviews
However, I wished author would have given us a little more insight into Hattie's psyche, her obvious depression, and her inability to show tenderness to her children. We are told her husband's affairs start after the twins die, but we do not get enough of Hattie. We are left to assume too much about her. Hattie shows intelligence when she moves from the deep South to the North and her attempt to save money for a home. Yet there is no clear or satisfying explanation why this Hattie remains with her unlikable, womanizing, and self-centered husband; therefore bearing more children. For this reason, I gave the book three stars.
This book felt like home and after reading this book I called my grandmother, looked at my old photographs and had a good cry.
I suppose I wanted to know a bit more about the children's lives, as a lot is left to supposition at the end of each chapter. Some more substantial denouement or tie-up would have added to the storyline, I think. I also wished that Hattie would have been a bit more dynamic as a character, holding the individual stories together. But the woman is who she is, and I guess folks' personalities do not actually change all that much over a 50-60 year period. Certainly the early scars on Hattie's life remained and even festered.
Overall, a good read. Regrettably, I had an "Oprah Book Club" version and was amazingly underwhelmed by "Oprah's" (or whoever writes these things in her name's) vapid comments on highlighted passages.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What I thought I was going to be reading:
As both a fan of Oprah’s Book Club and of African-American literature, I was...Read more