Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Avana Mathis

When Hattie, along with her mother and sisters, fled the racial violence of 1920’s Georgia for Philadelphia, she was a hopeful fourteen year old, entranced with the promise of a better life in the North. She was so confident of a bright future she named her first two children Philadelphia and Jubilee. But the North did not provide a better life for Hattie or her family. Her husband, an incorrigible womanizer and carouser, was an unreliable provider. Consequently, Hattie and her nine surviving children lived in poverty as Hattie eked out a sparse existence by sheer force of will. As adults, her children had their own unhappy stories, due to bad choices and physical as well mental illness. Hattie’s children regarded her as a cold, unloving mother. But for Hattie, little more than a child herself when her problems began, providing for her family’s physical needs had left her no time or energy for the emotional side of motherhood. Nevertheless, when problems arose, she did her best to support her children. And in her old age, she took on the responsibility of raising and protecting a granddaughter, hoping that this girl, the twelfth tribe, would be able to break the cycle of tragedy that had dogged her family. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is the second book chosen for Oprah’s 2.0 Book Club. Like many of Oprah’s other choices, this book involves someone striving to overcome difficult life circumstances. But in this book, many problems are insurmountable. Poverty, racism and disease can overwhelm the strong as well as the weak. Sometimes survival is the only victory that can be claimed.