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Short stories with a theme.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie - Ayana Mathis

This struck me as a collection of well written essays on life in Philadelphia (and to a lesser extent, Georgia), post 1925, when 17 year-old Hattie moves north with her mother and sisters. Immediately the difference between living as a Black in The North, against staying in The South, is apparent to Hattie. They are no longer expected to walk off the pavement when a White passes, they are even spoken to cordially, it is an awakening for Hattie. But this seems to be the only positive part of the book, for each of Hattie's children suffer endless problems in their lives, starting with the most heart-rending chapter of all, as Hattie nurses her two tiny babies as they fight pneumonia.


Hattie has not made a good marriage and although her husband loves the children, he repeatedly fails to provide for them. Hattie becomes hardened and practical, and the children remember little in the way of love or affection. One by one the youngsters pull away from the family into adulthood and more mistakes. 


There is little that is upbeat about these stories and little connection between them, apart from the common parent. The descriptions of time and place were well written but the disconnect between each chapter did detract from the overall read.

Oprah's comments in my Kindle version, were interesting and irritating in equal measure, but I found I could not just ignore them.


3 1/2 stars.