The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Imgres-1The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a written by Ayana Mathis, a first time novelist.  It is the story about the family of Hattie.  Hattie was part of the great migration north.  Hattie was 15 when she moved to Philadelphia from Georgia after she married a man who in the end gave her one disappointment after another.  Between the frustration in her marriage, the lack of cash and the many children she bore made Hattie a really cold unhappy woman.  The unhappiness that ran through her body bled into all of her childrens lives as we learn more about each of them over the course of the book. 

The part of this book that really sat with me is how Hattie had all those kids and the impact she had in their lives was obviously huge and so tragic.  She wasn't able to break the cycle of unhappiness.  Perhaps only a book but it made me think about how mothers are such role models to their children.  We of course are never perfect even though I do believe most of us try to be good parents to our kids.  Yet no matter what we do there is always going to be something we did wrong.  It's life.

My Mom was not exactly the warmest person when it came to our friends.  She just wanted to make sure that we were independent and didn't fall off the ladder.  If we did she would be there to prop us back up and then went along on her way.  It was who she was.  She felt she did her best and that was all we could ask for.  Her mother was not the warmest either and very much about herself.  I am not so sure my Mom broke the mold but certainly shifted it a little.  

This book had made me think more about motherhood.  It is a topic weighing heavily on my head these days.  When the kids are young Mothers are the primary focus of their childrens lives, when they are a little older and still under your roof they are still reliant on their Mothers.  As they grow older and have their own lives even though you are still the Mother, you are not part of the day to day.  It is a good thing but it is a transition for the Mother not for the kid.  

Funny enough, even Hattie's kids understood that many of the roads they traveled had to do with the Mother they had.  It is life and it is just something that I am thinking about.   

Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    And it comes full cycle.It is my job with my mom now 93 and the last of her generation to be the child to her that she was the mother to me my whole life.Pic is my mom and her mother on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx in the early ’30s most likely.

    1. Wavelengths

      I call my mother where she is now in an assisted living home, under hospice care. She knows who I am, but has trouble finishing any sentence she starts.So I remind her of times we shared. I tell the stories of the family to her. And I sing her lullabies. I am mothering my mother.The one thing we always share, though, is I’ll say, “I love you so much,” and she will say “I love you, too.

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks for the share.What amazes me about my mom is how lucid she is and can remember a day, 75 years ago with amazing detail and memory.Old age to me for her is when the most important things that fill her days are memories from the past.Being a good son is just really important to me.

  2. AG

    I so appreciate this piece, and it’s something I think about often. I’m not a mother myself, but I think about motherhood in relation to the mother I think I would like to be and in relation to my own mom. My little brother really divorced himself of the nest this year, and my mom is struggling with being on her own and with more infrequent visitors (she’s divorced too). I don’t think she ever anticipated this stage in her life, or ,rather, thought about it in a way that prepared her for what was to come. (My father couldn’t be happier.) What strikes me most about your response, though, is how truly a mother’s attitude affects the disposition of her children. My mom loved us and did everything she could for us in many ways. But what she failed to do was to break the chain of “unhappiness” and thus imbue us with positivity. I understand, as an adult, why she was the way she was, but often wonder how I would have been different if she had embraced life in a different way. I don’t think she realized what a gift this could have been. On another level, just yesterday, I watched a mother on the subway yell at her child to watch his little sister while she ignored them both. I could imagine the circumstances of this family and some of the constraints they might face, but as her son continued to spend the rest of the ride singing pop songs to himself, I wondered what he was thinking and how this type of mothering would affect his life.

    1. Gotham Gal

      that little boy probably wasn’t thinking anything because he did not know any better. as he becomes an adult and moves into his own life is when he will understand the affects.

  3. TanyaMonteiro

    this is why I read your blog Joanne, your determination to be the best mother, wife, investor, friend etc. all inspires me. Thank you

  4. rachel

    it is such a goal of mine as a mother and one that I think is often overlooked — it’s more important than what schools your kids go to / get in to, their friends, their interests — having a home filled with happiness is truly a gift i hope to pass on.