Oprah's Favorite Passages from The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Alice and Billups: 1968
Alice knew these things were coming, and she rested her head on her brother's chest. She wished the man outside really were Thomas, so she and Billups could again have the same enemy and the same fear.
This is the strangest chapter in the book, or at least it was one of the strangest to me. If we can't be friends at least we can have the same enemy.
One time a guy bet his sister. What the fuck kind of world is this, I thought, but I won that game and took my prize.
Another statement of character. It's such a quiet sentence, but again, it packs such a punch.
It was cold, but she was sitting out on the stoop in her coat. She saw me before I saw her. She cursed me and all my ways.
So visual. So descriptive.
I got down on my knees. It wasn't an act to win her back; I would have laid on the ground in front of her if there had been room on the stoop. I told her I loved her and that I'd do better and all of the other things men say when they don't deserve forgiveness. I meant every word, but she wouldn't have taken me back. You can't let somebody like me off so easy. I don't know what's wrong with me. It's not like I don't know what I'm doing wrong or like I'm powerless to stop myself. I just do what I'm going to do, despite what it'll cost me. After, I'm truly sorry. I regret almost everything I've ever done, but I don't suppose that makes any difference.
You wake up thinking about these people. You think you know them. The author's character descriptions cut to the marrow. He knew he would fail her. A prophecy self-fulfilled.
We ate in near silence, like a rich couple in a movie...A crease in her brow looked as though it had deepened, and I noticed that she had put on rouge and lipstick. I didn't like that. I wanted us to be husband and wife again with no pretenses between us, nothing for show. She hadn't worn makeup since we were dating, and it made me feel like a man she didn't know and who didn't know her. I wanted her to walk around in her slip like she used to, with her hair in pin curls tied up with a silk scarf.
That's such insight into the way a man thinks. It just made me think about why Stedman prefers me with no makeup. And most men I would say prefer their women with no makeup, without all the fancy stuff. How Ayana got into the mind of a man is almost supernatural. I thought, "Wow, that's why they don't like it." It was my "aha!" All that stuff makes us look like we're not real, like you're putting on a show. Stedman will tell me when I'm all made up: "You look nice," but when I'm not made up he'll say, "You look beautiful. What a beautiful girl you are." And I'm like, what are you, crazy? You nuts? I don't have on any makeup! That's been going on for over twenty years. For the first time I understood that.
Next: The chapter that took Oprah's breath away