- Series: Oprah's Book Club 2.0
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (December 6, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385350287
- ISBN-13: 978-0385350280
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,541 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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)
Top customer reviews
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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.
I REALLY enjoyed Ms. Mathis' prose with regardes to her ability to set the scene for the reader. I did not like the flow of the chapters however, because they were disjointed and sometimes lacked resolution.
I really wanted to enjoy this book, and embrace it as one of my all time favorites; but once I completed it, I felt let down...like a deflated balloon.
This story had so much potential had it been written with a better balance - it came from a dark place. I am not saying there should have been Unicorns, Rainbows, and Butterflies throughout; but some interjection of happiness or success for a least one of the nine children would have given this reader some hope and redemption for Hattie's descendants.
For an exceptional read; I would like to recommend "The Healing" by Jonathan Odell.