Monday, February 4, 2013

What I'm Reading: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a beautifully written work providing insight into the troubled life of a family-and specifically of a mother and her 12 tribes (11 children and 1 grandchild). Hattie moves to Philadelphia during the Great Migration in 1923. Two years later, she is 16, married to a philanderer and has given birth to twins. By the end of the first chapter, a tragic event rips Hattie open and almost instantly turns her into a stoic woman that sees provision as the best way to love. The effects of that manifest in in the lives of her children whose lives we are allowed to peer into through chapters named for each of them over the course of 55 years.

The book spoke to me on many levels. It re-emphasized the importance of love. I realized at an early age that love is one of the most powerful gifts we have to give and the decision to dole it our freely or to withhold it can shift a life--it can actually shift several lives since we often only pass on what we've been given.

The book also reminded me that emotion is better than provision. I think we often get consumed in providing for our loved ones but in the end, the food in my belly, the clothes on my back or the roof over my head won't be as important to me as a shoulder to cry on or the feeling I get when I know I'm loved.

Finally, the book provides a commentary on the importance of seeing love and joy as you grow. I do not have children, but I mentor a teen group and I am my parent's child. Though it came later in life, my parents are happy and living fulfilled lives. It makes me want to reach for the stars. I like to think I model that same behaviour for my teens.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is all pain and lessons, choices and truth, birth and death. It touches on spirituality, sexuality, family, and mental illness. It is a survival story beautifully brought to life by Mathis' vivid almost painterly writing. I highly recommend adding The Twelve Tribes of Hattie to your reading list.

Next on my list is Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

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