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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

3.44  ·  Rating Details  ·  27,843 Ratings  ·  4,373 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 a
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published December 6th 2012 by Knopf (first published December 1st 2012)
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Marsha Stick with it. You will not be disappointed. You get a sense of the main character and her life choices through the eyes and lives of her children as…moreStick with it. You will not be disappointed. You get a sense of the main character and her life choices through the eyes and lives of her children as they mature through different periods in history, Mathis storytelling makes the reader feel as if he/she is in that moment in history-- the language of the era (say the 1940s), the politics and socioeconomic status of blacks. You also understand how children, raised under the same roof, can be so different. I enjoyed it!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Rating = 3.5 stars

Aw, hell. How am I supposed to rate this? There's some powerful writing here, but the structure of the novel prevents it from gaining much momentum. Each chapter is devoted to one or two of Hattie's children, and after they get that one chapter, they're mostly abandoned for the remainder of the novel. Each character has to be introduced and developed within the space of one long chapter, never to be heard from again (mostly) once their time in the spotlight has passed.

Adding t
Jan 19, 2013 Astrid rated it it was ok
Shelves: on-hiatus
After sticking with this book for five chapters, I am giving up. I don't typically enjoy Oprah's recommendations but this one has been so well-reviewed. The writing is good but it reads like a series of short stories about each of Hattie's children. I would rather have more of a plot. None of the characters were relatable or likable to me, especially Hattie. I have no tolerance for a cold, distant mother.

I concur with The Chicago Tribune's review:
"Our great novelists give us fully rounded charac
Jan 06, 2013 Susan rated it did not like it
Going to read this despite the fact that's it's Oprah.............. (The Great Migration fascinates me)
Well that was depressing :-( Not a single character to care about and this was NOT the Great Migration that I know about. Not reccommended.
Dec 24, 2012 Sandy rated it really liked it
I heard an interview with Oprah and Ayana Mathis and was intrigued. Although I've given this book 4 stars, I would have liked to see more connectivity between the characters. The book read more like a collection of separate short stories rather than a novel. Each of the characters are sadly flawed, with troubled lives, different yet similar to their mother's. I loved the picture the author painted of each of them.

Some of Oprah's comments were insightful, but many were along the lines of "oh, I
Mar 24, 2013 jo rated it liked it
Shelves: african-american
i have no idea how to rate this book. it's beautiful in so many ways, but it's not a book one likes. so terribly painful. maybe i'll write a review. i have to recover first.

REVIEW 3/23/13

there is only one way i can make myself like (not appreciate, not admire, not respect, because those i already do: like) this book, and it is if i imagine it representing the author's childhood. in the acknowledgments she writes: "To the Philadelphia School for Girls, for being a light in the darkest part of my
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book. It is a novel, but it is told as a collection of stories, all taken from the complex, broken, and vivid lives of one woman and her family over 4 generations. Some have said it is a story of The Great Migration, when Southern Blacks moved out of the South starting around 1915, and it is true that many of the hardships and struggles are representative of families migrating at that time. But at its core this book is the story of one family, and that famil ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Allegorical novel about slavery and race. Uses biblical references (twelve tribes of Israel) in the same vein as Toni Morrison.

But, then Oprah loves her some cheerless storytelling.
Dec 31, 2012 Kathy rated it liked it
I've read a lot of Oprah's book club books and I've enjoyed most of them. This was no exception and really I'd rate if 3.5 stars if possible. I read it on my kindle and was surprised when I turned the page and it was "acknowledgments", I wasn't ready for the story to end. I suppose there is no ending, that Hattie and her children's lives just continue on the same dysfunctional path because it's very difficult when people are born in poverty, oppression, and abuse to change. Maybe there's hope fo ...more
I read this late last year and at first I was gravitating towards leaving it unrated. I thought I wouldn't be able to give it a rating that would adequately express how I felt about what I had read. Sure, I liked the writing in some parts and I enjoyed some chapters more than others but overall I couldn't say whether I liked or didn't like it hence my dilemma. The author set up the book with each chapter being from the point of view of Hattie's children and while some worked, some fell really fl ...more
3, maybe 3.5 stars for the well done writing.

I so wanted to love this book. I thought from the synopsis I had found the "family saga" that I was craving. I think the idea behind this book, telling the story of one woman and each of her children was a wonderful beginning, but all in all it fell a bit flat for me by the time I got to the end.

Hattie escapes a not so wonderful childhood with hopes for a better life. Those hopes are quickly snuffed out and she seems to always be reaching for her d
Kim McGee
Nov 10, 2012 Kim McGee rated it really liked it
It is not easy being a mother. It doesn't matter what year you were born, your race, your economic status and it doesn't matter how many children you have. Hattie knew her life wasn't going anywhere fast in Georgia in 1923 so she quickly flees to Philadelphia and marries only to have her life get more complicated instead of easier. Her first joy is the birth of twins and her first (and possibly greatest)tragedy happens at their death from pneumonia. Each chapter is narrated by one of Hattie's ni ...more
Mar 13, 2013 Britany rated it really liked it
This was a book that initially I didn't think I would appreciate, as much hype as it was getting, especially being chosen as an Oprah book club pick.

I devoured The Twelve Tribes of Hattie in 2 sittings, and I can't remember the last time I read a book that I was as interested in. This book tells 12 different stories, all from the perspectives of Hattie's twelve children. Each story had its own heartbeat and was perfectly shaped into a beginning, middle, and end. Each story while told chronologi
Angela Williams
Dec 16, 2012 Angela Williams rated it it was ok
Completed the book on December 9. Interesting how author reflected the main character chapter by chapter. Interesting read that I relate to personally based on family and other connections during same era, culture and migration. Can't wait for discussions to begin, I'm interested to see what others thought of the book as well. Now learned not to spoil for others still reading. Good reading, waiting to discuss!! Thank you.
Read In Colour
Dec 05, 2012 Read In Colour rated it really liked it
Is there a limit on the amount of love a parent can have for their child? If you have more than one child, is it possible to have loved your other children so much that you have nothing left for the others? Or is it just possible for life to beat you down so much so that you have nothing left to give your children except a place to stay, food to eat and a determination to survive?

I can't find fault with Hattie Shepherd. Giving birth to your first children at the age of 19 in a new city can be ov
Feb 06, 2013 Cynthia rated it liked it
Tender Grandmother

A horrendous event leads teenage Hattie and her mother and sisters to abandon their beloved Georgia home and flee north to Philadelphia. There Hattie grows up quickly getting married and having twins before she turns 16. She’s shocked and devastated by how much she loves her children and by how much her husband August lets her down. Hattie is not a perfect mother, in fact most of “Tribes” is about her parental short comings but to be fair to her she gets little help from her hu
Jan 31, 2013 Nicolette rated it really liked it
A good first effort for the writer. I like the snippet way the stories were told; in that format, I as the reader had my own opportunity to flesh out the characters/stories. Despite being able to do that, I still felt that some of the characters were under-developed. I felt robbed with some stories, they ended so quickly without much substance while others were packed to the gills from beginning to end.

In my own life experience, I've met Hattie and her tribe, multiple times. In some cases some m
Feb 05, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There has been a lot of buzz surrounding The Twelve Tribes of Hattie as it is one of Oprah's Book Club Picks and destined to be a bestseller as a result. So is the hype justified?

Hattie Shepherd is part of the Great Migration, moving from Georgia to Philadelphia in the mid 1920s, hoping for a new start in life. Aged just 17, the story of her new life begins with the tragic death of her twin babies, Philadelphia and Jubilee who had ironically been given "names of promise and hope, reaching-forwar
Jan 03, 2013 Courtney rated it did not like it
I would die before reading another book highlighted by Oprah. It made me feel like a sheep. Couldn't even make it past the first free bit.

Come on people... think for yourselves! Oprah is a nice lady, but a novel should stand on it's own.

That's why I didn't like this book.

I took this review down once because someone accused me of being a homophobe for not liking this book and frankly, I just don't want to be associated with the kind of people who run around calling strangers homophobes. But you k
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
May 04, 2014 Debbie "DJ" Wilson rated it it was amazing
This book drew me in right away. The story centers around an African American woman, Hattie, who leaves the south yet is still entrenched in it in many ways. Most chapters focus on the life of one of her many children, and includes the date, which really gave me a perspective of life in those times, especially for someone of color. I felt the whole story merged together nicely, and flowed in a way that kept me connected to all the characters. Reminiscent of Toni Morrison, the writing is superb. ...more
Apr 03, 2013 Glenda rated it it was ok
This book is divided into 12 chapters with each chapter being told by or about one of Hattie's children. The stories were well written and kept my attention, but were only connected through Hattie. After the one chapter, that character was not heard from again. This left me wondering about how things turned out for each character, but we never find out. Each story is depressing and tragic. Hattie has a lot to deal with--poverty, a womanizing husband, and too many children to care for. She loses ...more
Rebecca Foster
Mathis’s debut novel is the achingly sad saga of one black family making their way north and fighting to break free from poverty and prejudice.

In the early years of the 1920s, Hattie Shepherd longs to escape from Georgia, where her father was lynched. When she marries August, they set off hopefully for Pennsylvania only to watch their seven-month-old twins, Philadelphia and Jubilee, die of pneumonia despite Hattie’s desperate ministrations.

This loss will haunt Hattie throughout the years to come
☽ Moon Rose ☯
Jan 14, 2013 ☽ Moon Rose ☯ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☽ Moon Rose ☯ by: Oprah's Book Club 2.0
Hattie believed in God's might, but she didn't believe in his interventions. At least, he was indifferent. God wasn't any of her business and she wasn't any of His. In church on Sundays she looked around the sanctuary and wondered if anyone else felt the way she did, if anyone else was there because they believed in the ritual and the hymn singing and good preaching more than they believed in a responsive, sympathetic God.
This harmless thought of Hattie Shepherd, unsaid and kept only in the si
Jan 01, 2013 Cherie rated it liked it
I liked the stories about Hattie and her children. It was sad how hard she had to work so hard to keep so many in food and clothing without hardly any help from her husband and how she never had anything for herself. It was unfortunate that she had so many. It was hard to hear how so many of them led such unfortunate lives after she tried so hard to prepare them for life on their own. It shows that just keeping them alive and fed and dressed is not enough. Humans require touching and carressing ...more
Djuanna Brockington
Jan 16, 2013 Djuanna Brockington rated it liked it
While I wanted to love this book, I just didn't. That's not to say that I didn't like it, but it was so heavy at times. Well-written and entertaining, but it started to feel like all those episodes of Good Times where they ALMOST made it out of the ghetto, but didn't. The last chapter was probably the saving grace for me.
Diane S ⛄
Dec 13, 2012 Diane S ⛄ rated it really liked it
The book opens with a heart rendering tragedy which quickly captures the reader's interest. The great migration, the early 1900's and a mother with her three daughters move to Philadelphia to escape the Jim Crow south. Things do not work out as planned, Hattie has a hard life but does manage to keep nine children alive with very little help. Hattie is a formidable character, she has a strength and resiliency
that keeps her going, but this does not mean she does not carry hurts and scars. The stru
Although this book had a lot of flaws, I was entertained from the first word until the last. This is just the kind of book that tends to resonate with me - family drama, mental illness, and dysfunction. And this book is packed full with all of those things!

I really enjoyed how the story was told through chapters in the voice of the various characters. I thought it gave the reader an interesting perspective on the various characters over time. The only negative about that approach was that some
Feb 14, 2013 Siobhan rated it it was ok
I was so looking forward to reading this book and perhaps that is why it disappointed me so. My major complaint with this book is that it felt like twelve rough sketches for twelve interesting novels with great potential. In fact, more than one of the stories left me wanting a great deal more and feeling quite let down that Ms Mathis had not chosen to develop that particular character any further. None of the stories had enough flesh or substance to exist on their own, nor did they bear enough o ...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
3.5 Stars - Individual narratives of the lives of Hattie Shepherd’s children that span the course of 55 years.

It had been a looooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggggg time since I read something just because Oprah told me too, but that’s exactly why I read this book. Suffice it to say that Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 is a second verse, same as the first. If you’ve read enough of Oprah’s selections, you’ll know she likes some misery in her book club. Luckily it was a quick read, because I don’
Nov 18, 2015 Darkowaa rated it it was amazing
!!! book blog review:

I bought this in 2014. I didn't even plan to read this during the summer, but the book was smiling at me from my bookshelf, so I started it. From the first page to the last, this has been a good page turner. I honestly do not have any issues with this book, it was an excellent read! I read each chapter as a short story, since each chapter focuses on one of Hattie's 9 children intertwined with Hattie and her husband August's history. E
Jul 11, 2015 Debbie rated it it was amazing
A Phenomenally astounding book.

All of my night and day time waking readable hours were spent practically glued to the pages of this book. On the cover of the book is a little sticker that proclaims that this book has the honor of having been included in Oprah's book club. Let me say right now I would gladly put my name on a petition to request her, her production company and her director friends to make this book into a movie. (Excluding Tyler, sorry this isn't that type of book.) This book is
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Winona Public Lib...: November 2015 Book Discussion 1 3 Oct 26, 2015 03:00PM  
4DRAKE: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie 3 23 Jul 10, 2014 11:08AM  
African-American ...: Kisha&Lulu March bbr: The twelve Tribes of Hattie 53 29 Mar 19, 2014 10:39AM  
The Blerd Book Club: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis 1 17 Feb 01, 2014 07:28AM  
Fiction Lover's B...: * The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis 1 2 Jan 29, 2014 12:13PM  
Star Rating System 10 183 Jan 26, 2014 03:52AM  
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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.
More about Ayana Mathis...

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“Maybe we have only a finite amount of love to give. We're born with our portion, and if we love and are not loved enough in return, it's depleted.” 30 likes
“I try to find the beauty in things. On dark days I sit in my armchair looking at clouds and I am awed at how rain is made.” 22 likes
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