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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Vintage)by Ayana Mathis
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Synopses & Reviews
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, Mathis’s first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.
From the Hardcover edition.
“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
“Remarkable....Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.” Publishers Weekly (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)
“An excellent debut....Appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious.” Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“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
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, swept up by the tides of the Great Migration, flees Georgia and heads north. Full of hope, she settles in Philadelphia to build a better life. Instead she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment, and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins are lost to an illness that a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children, whom she raises with grit, mettle, and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them to meet a world that will not be kind. Their lives, captured here in twelve luminous threads, tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage—and a nation's tumultuous journey.
About the Author
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. Originally from Philadelphia, she lives in Brooklyn.
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