The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Reading Group Guide

Dive into Oprah's latest pick for Oprah's Book Club 2.0 with 16 questions about Ayana Mathis's stunning first novel, The Tribes of Hattie.

The Great Migration forms the backdrop for The Twelve Tribes of Hattie and was an ongoing inspiration to the author in writing it. What do you know about this historical phenomenon, and what role can you discern it plays in the book? Are there family members of yours who experienced/were affected by it?

In the book's first chapter, Hattie suffers a terrible double tragedy: her infant twins fall ill and die. How do you think this event changes the course of Hattie's life/the course of the novel?

Hattie thinks her mother would have thought the names she chose for her twins—Philadelphia and Jubilee—were "vulgar," "low and showy." But Hattie chose them to "give her babies names that weren't already chiseled on a headstone in the family plots in Georgia." Instead, she wanted to give them names "of promise and hope, reaching forward names." What do you think the author means to convey here?

In the second chapter ("Floyd"), the narrative moves up twenty-three years, to 1948, and focus shifts to Hattie's oldest surviving son. Discuss how the novel's structure, i.e., ten chapters, each focused on a different character and time period, affects the reading experience.

What do you think the author intends on page 17 when she refers to the "rotting-jasmine smell of the South" Floyd detects as he drives, en route to a musical gig?

Do you think Floyd will come out as a gay man after the scene with Lafayette on page 33, or do you think his temperament and experience, and the times, will prevent this? Or will he hang himself "like Judas"?

What do you think the author intended by making Six's true relationship to God/preaching so ambiguous? Is he a religious person, or does he just like the power his preaching has over others?
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