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Download The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Oprahs Book Club 2.0) Audiobook, by Ayana Mathis Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.00021934634788 out of 53.00021934634788 out of 53.00021934634788 out of 53.00021934634788 out of 53.00021934634788 out of 5 3.00 (9,118 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Ayana Mathis Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White, Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: December 2012 ISBN: 9780804127264
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Hattie Shepherd is no ordinary girl. At fifteen, she flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hopeful that she'll be able to make a better life for herself. This is 1923, though, and racism and sexism abound in Southern US. Instead of a better life, she finds a good-for-nothing husband and a bleak future.

Before long, she starts to suffer all the more, as she realizes her new husband can do nothing to save her. Hattie can do nothing but watch as her two youngest children succumb to an illness she could have easily prevented. She raises her remaining children with hard love, certain they are to face the same hardships she will...but what of her own future? Packed in the pages of this novel lays hope in desperation and the tale of a woman who just wouldn't quit.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is a riveting collection of tales sure to please just about any reader.

Ayana Mathis is a newcomer to the American author scene. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she comes from a long line of strong, independent women. Before writing books, she found work as a waitress, a researcher, and for a short time as a freelance writer. In 2011, she earned her MFA in writing from the Iowa Writer's Workshop. She has been given several literary honors, including a membership to Oprah's book club. Her books mainly concern Southern American life, and draw heavily from her background. She started writing at the age of eight.

The newest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection.
The arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 
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 as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing novel, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream. Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • “The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away. I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”

    Oprah Winfrey

  • “Pulses with life and emotion…Thrilling.”


  • “A poetic novel…that focuses less on American progress than on the small but powerful moments that are strung together, like beads on a necklace, to make one long strand of a family’s history…Like Toni Morrison, the author has a gift for showing just how heavily history weighs on families, as a learned sense of hope or despair gets passed down from parents to children and dreams die little by little, generation after generation. But if the endless heartbreaks sound melodramatic, Mathis earns your sympathy by making the rare moments of happiness feel simple and true.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “An exploration of race, gander, and struggle…Mathis writes with power and insight. Though less lyrical, she is a more accessible writer than Toni Morrison.”

    USA Today

  • “An intimate, often lyrical daisy-chain of stories capturing the telling moments in the lives of people who have been harshly and irrevocably marked by the circumstances of their birth…Through them, we understand the way in which dreams and despair are passed between generations. We feel the exhilaration of starting over, the basic human need to belong, and the inexorable pull back to a place that, for better or worse, you call home.”


  • “Mathis writes with uncommon narrative authority in The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, conjuring the lives of the Shepherd family with extraordinary psychological precision…[She] has a gift for imbuing her characters’ stories with an epic dimension that recalls Toni Morrison’s writing, and her sense of time and place and family will remind some of Louise Erdrich, but her elastic voice is thoroughly her own—both lyrical and unsparing, meditative and visceral, and capable of giving the reader nearly complete access to her characters’ minds and hearts…Astonishingly powerful.”

    New York Times

  • “One of the finest-drawn portraits of a family…These are tales steeped in race, a mother’s scarred heart, and a world where illness, both mental and physical, keeps threatening to steal souls away. The stories are emotional, sharp, poignant, and beautiful, made so by Mathis’ compassionate and layered storytelling and truthful prose, which ultimately seals each member to their family fold…characters who courageously forge forward in their quest for identity, love, and the American dream.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • “Mathis never loses touch with the geography and the changing national culture through which her characters move. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is infused with African Americans’ conflicted attitudes about the North and the South during the Great Migration…In the long family arc that Mathis describes, the painful life of one remarkably resilient woman is placed against the hopes and struggles of millions of African Americans who held this nation to its promise.”

    Washington Post

  • “This brutal, illuminating version of the twentieth century African-American experience belongs alongside those of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Zora Neale Hurston.”


  • “Lush yet deliberate…Elegant and sure…A complex and deeply humane story of a mother’s ferocious love and failures at loving…In the vivid specificity of Mathis’s tale, she is telling a universal story, and it is profoundly consoling.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A triumph…A stone-cold stunner of a novel…Magnificently structured, and a sentence-by-sentence treasure—lyric, direct, and true.”


  • “The influence of Toni Morrison will be evident in this remarkable page-turner of a novel that spans decades and covers dreams lost, found, and denied.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “Visceral, heart-wrenching…Mathis brings considerable empathic gifts to the detailed realistic snapshots in Hattie’s family album, and to the sense of displacement that has contributed to generations of troubles and travails.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Brilliant…Mathis’ first novel is an unvarnished look at the complexities of race, poverty, family, and motherhood that calls to mind the great works of authors like Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.”

    Baltimore Times

  • “Hypnotic…evocative, ambitious…encompassing Dickinson, Morrison, and the poetry of Rita Dove…Mathis understands both heritage and craft.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “A stirring, soulful novel that spans 60 years and is told in many rich and varied voices. It’s the story of one formidable woman, and of her children—the ‘tribes’—at different stages of their sprawling lives. It’s the story of the Great Migration, and of its ripping, aching effects across the 20th century…The Twelve Tribes of Hattie wallops you from the first chapter, but the book’s emotional power grows with the story as the decades pass and the scope of this family’s life is revealed.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Writing with stunning authority, clarity, and courage, debut novelist Mathis pivots forward in time, spotlighting intensely dramatic episodes in the lives of Hattie’s nine subsequent children (and one grandchild to make the ‘twelve tribes’), galvanizing crises that expose the crushed dreams and anguished legacy of the Great Migration…Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Remarkable…Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Cutting, emotional…Pure heartbreak…Though Mathis has inherited some of Toni Morrison’s poetic intonation, her own prose is appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book’s structure is ingenious…An excellent debut.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Adam Lazarre-White infuse every ounce of life possible into the enormous cast of characters. Their voices shimmer with rage, sizzle with sex, and darken with despair as almost every possible misfortune unfolds to Hattie and her nine children. An Oprah’s Book Club pick, the novel captures the endless travails and tragedies Hattie experiences, but much more than the story of one woman’s family, it is an engrossing, heartbreaking, clear-eyed exploration of the hardships faced by the Southern African-Americans who went North at the beginning of the twentieth century, hoping for a better life. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award.


  • An Oprah’s Book Club Selection in 2012
  • Selected for the January 2013 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” in January 2013
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • Nominated for the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • One of the New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2013
  • An NPR Best Book of the Year
  • A Chicago Tribune Editor’s Choice

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lyn | 2/8/2014

    " Luminous prose. Compelling characters. I loved the story of Floyd and the other children that are Hattie's tribe. Memorable images that make you realize how hard life was for those who took on the Great Migration. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brent Bridges | 2/4/2014

    " I enjoyed this beautifully written book, although it's more of a rich character study with Hattie as its common thread than traditional novel. While the story is ultimately about Hattie, her struggle, her pain, her determination, I found myself wanting more resolution from the children's stories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carrie | 1/26/2014

    " Rich characters...rich writing....I liked that each character had his or her own section-- at first I thought that Ayana Mathis wasn't weaving the family together...and that this might appear as a disconnect, because it sort of felt that way...But, in thinking about it further...it was the perfect way to reveal Hattie's children. I just finished the book..I need time to really sit and feel it thoroughly..I love this book..I want more...this is what I know for sure...smile...(a little Oprah pun). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kari | 1/22/2014

    " I thought this was well-written, but I'm not sure what the point was. Very realistic characters, but they all end up miserable - all 12 of her children. What is the point? Ugh. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Krista | 1/21/2014

    " I had mixed feelings while reading this book. It is really 12 short stories with a bit of overlap between the characters. It was well written and compelling at times, but I didn't have the opportunity to really get to know any of the characters or get very invested in their stories. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Martha Katzeff | 1/14/2014

    " Feh. It's without a doubt beautifully written in true Iowa writer workshop style but the plot is thin and the characters tiresome after a while. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Massumeh | 1/13/2014

    " Great book, great writing and storytelling, but the end was a bit anti-climactic "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tina Wilson | 12/16/2013

    " A very interesting way of writing about the life of a family. Mothers can definitely relate. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa Cavender | 12/12/2013

    " Like most Oprah picks, this book was heartbreaking. A good read but it left me sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Melissa Webb | 12/10/2013

    " some strong writing but I wanted more. each chapter was its own story. not very cohesive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wanda | 11/25/2013

    " I made myself finish this book. It was ok but too disconnected the way it was written. Once I read the questions at the end, I understood the story better but was a shame I couldn't figure out on my own the relationship of Hattie's "tribe" . "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Grace | 11/23/2013

    " Excellent but too sad! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lovestheride | 11/16/2013

    " Interesting story of an everyday mom. Struggles she faced and stories of how her children turned out, somewhat fragmented. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karol | 9/14/2013

    " This book is beautifully written, but incredibly tragic. It is so desolate that I stopped reading it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Davis | 5/1/2013

    " Should've been "the twelve miserable lives of miserable Hattie". This was a pretty good book but it doesn't let up on these unfortunate lives. Hattie is a cold miserable woman. There is no joy, no hope, no comic relief. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Suzanne | 4/24/2013

    " This is very much a book of short stories linked by Hattie, whose character evolves during snapshots of each of her children over a span of many years. It was very effective but I felt somewhat unsatisfied, wanting to know more about the rest of the story for these children. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Suzanne Jorg | 2/25/2013

    " Well written slice of life, but I was left thinking...."is that all?" "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Linda Gaines | 2/2/2013

    " Mostly well-written but depressing to have so many flawed characters. I did love Hattie most of the time. I like the final chapter the best. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Jill Choate | 1/19/2013

    " I should have read the reviews before attempting to read this book. Finally quit when I got about 3/4's of the way through. Too depressing and no end in sight. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tanya Brown | 1/15/2013

    " Great book. Sometimes I hate when each chapter is written by, or about, a different character, but this book flowed and tied everything in really well. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Marsha | 1/14/2013

    " Had trouble getting into this because I couldn't identify too much with the characters. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jessica | 12/25/2012

    " I liked some of it but overall it read like a writing exercise....not a book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Suzanne Bigler | 12/19/2012

    " I thought the book contained interesting portrayals of a variety of characters, mostly children of the main character, however, i didn't think it really hung together as an interesting story or novel overall. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dani | 12/18/2012

    " This was ok nothing extraordinary "

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About the Author

Ayana Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

About the Narrators

Adam Lazarre-White, best known for starring as Nathan Hastings on The Young & The Restless, also gained notoriety on Living Single, Girlfriends, Will & Grace, The Parkers, and in the Emmy Award–winning miniseries The Temptations. His other television and film credits include Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Deliver Us from Eva, Ocean’s 13, All about You, and Forgiveness. Lazarre-White has many credits as a voice artist on commercial radio, television, and film. He graduated from Harvard and then returned home to New York to train at Terry Schreiber Studios and continue his work on LA stages, notably in Romeo & Juliet, The Trojan Women, and Neil Labute’s This Is How It Goes.

Adenrele Ojo is an actress, dancer, and audiobook narrator, winner of over a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards for narration. She made her onscreen debut in My Little Girl, starring Jennifer Lopez, and has since starred in several other films. She has also performed extensively with the Philadelphia Dance Company. As the daughter of John E. Allen, Jr., founder and artistic director of Freedom Theatre, the oldest African American theater in Pennsylvania, is no stranger to the stage. In 2010 she performed in the Fountain Theatre’s production of The Ballad of Emmett Till, which won the 2010 LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award and the Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for Best Ensemble. Other plays include August Wilson’s Jitney and Freedom Theatre’s own Black Nativity, where she played Mary.

Bahni Turpin has won numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards and three prestigious Audie Awards for her audiobook narrations, and Publishers Weekly magazine named her Narrator of the Year for 2016. She is an ensemble member of the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles. She has guest starred in many television series, including NYPD Blue, Law & Order, Six Feet Under, Cold Case, What about Brian, and The Comeback. Film credits include Brokedown Palace, Crossroads, and Daughters of the Dust. She is also a member of the recording cast of The Help, which won numerous awards.