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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Cover of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
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The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection: this special eBook edition of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis features exclusive content, including Oprah’s personal notes highlighted within the text, and a reading group guide. 
 
The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 
 
A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

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. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream.
The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection: this special eBook edition of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis features exclusive content, including Oprah’s personal notes highlighted within the text, and a reading group guide. 
 
The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 
 
A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family.

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. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream.
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Awards-
About the Author-
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    Ayana Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is her first novel.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from October 15, 2012
    Mathis’s remarkable debut traces the life of Hattie Shepherd through the eyes of her offspring, depicting a family whose members are distant, fiercely proud, and desperate for connection with their mother. When 16-year-old Hattie’s newborn twins, her first with husband August, die from pneumonia in the winter of 1925, it is a devastation that will disfigure her for the rest of her life. As the novel moves from closeted musician Floyd’s fearful attempt to love another man in 1948, to Six’s flight to Alabama two years later after beating a boy nearly to death, Alice’s rift with her brother Billups in the late 1960s, consumptive Bell’s aborted suicide in 1975, and Cassie’s descent into schizophrenia in the early 1980s, what ties these lives together is a longing for tenderness from the mother they call the General. Strong, angry Hattie despairs as August, an ineffectual though affectionate father, reveals himself to be a womanizer who is incapable of supporting the family. Hattie finds happiness with Lawrence, a gambler; after having his baby, Hattie leaves August and her other children and goes with Lawrence to Baltimore, but returns to the house on Wayne Street, in Philadelphia, almost immediately. Sick with longing for her dead twins and all that her children will never have, Hattie retreats into coldness. As her children age, they come to terms with their intense need for and resentment of the mother who kept them alive but starved their hearts, while Hattie faces a choice between anger and peace. Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group.

  • Oprah Winfrey "The opening pages of Ayana's debut took my breath away.I can't remember whenI read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison."
  • Ron Charles, The Washington Post "Lush yet deliberate...elegant and sure...a complex and deeply humane story of a mother's ferocious love and failures at loving...In the vivid specificity of Mathis's tale, she is telling a universal story, and it is profoundly consoling." --Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe "Mathis never loses touch with the geography and the changing national culture through which her characters move. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is infused with African Americans' conflicted attitudes about the North and the South during the Great Migration...In the long family arc that Mathis describes, the painful life of one remarkably resilient woman is placed against the hopes and struggles of millions of African Americans who held this nation to its promise...One of the best [novels] of 2012."
  • David Daley, Salon "Raw and intimate...a brutal and poetic allegory of a family beset by tribulations...Mathis tempers the more operatic elements with tenderness and knowing glimpses into the human heart struggling to love...deeply felt." --Isabel Wilkerson, The New York Times Book Review "A triumph...a stone-cold stunner of a novel...magnificently structured, and a sentence-by-sentence treasure -- lyric, direct, and true."
  • Marion Winik, Newsday "This brutal, illuminating version of the twentieth century African-American experience belongs alongside those of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston."
  • Entertainment Weekly, Grade: A- "A poetic novel...that focuses less on American progress than on the small but powerful moments that are strung together, like beads on a necklace, to make one long strand of a family's history...Like Toni Morrison, the author has a gift for showing just how heavily history weighs on families, as a learned sense of hope or despair gets passed down from parents to children and dreams die little by little, generation after generation. But if the endless heartbreaks sound melodramatic, Mathis earns your sympathy by making the rare moments of happiness feel simple and true."
  • Shelf Awareness "A stirring, soulful novel that spans 60 years and is told in many rich and varied voices. It's the story of one formidable woman, and of her children--the 'tribes'--at different stages of their sprawling lives. It's the story of the Great Migration, and of its ripping, aching effects across the 20th century...The Twelve Tribes of Hattie wallops you from the first chapter, but the book's emotional power grows with the story as the decades pass and the scope of this family's life is revealed."
  • The Dallas Morning News "One of the finest-drawn portraits of a family...These are tales steeped in race, a mother's scarred heart, and a world where illness, both mental and physical, keeps threatening to steal souls away. The stories are emotional, sharp, poignant, and beautiful, made so by Mathis' compassionate and layered storytelling and truthful prose, which ultimately seals each member to their family fold...characters who courageously forge forward in their quest for identity, love, and the American dream."
  • Lambda Literary "Masterfully written. Capturing a range of settings and time periods, from a Southern jazz club in the 1940s to a beach in Vietnam in the 1960s, each member of the family is rendered with subtlety and honesty...always authentic and alive."
  • Tampa Bay Times "Loneliness and hard-won grace pervade Ayana Mathis' virtuoso debut novel...As her characters suffer and stray, she walks the fine line of treating them with compassion but never sentimentality...Mathis' novel is about human experiences that we all share, about love and loss, and about the tremendous distances and inextricable bonds that form our families."
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer "Hypnotic...
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