The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Summary & Study Guide

Ayana Mathis
This Study Guide consists of approximately 44 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.
This section contains 590 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Summary & Study Guide Description

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis.

Hattie flees Georgia in the Great Migration with her mother and two sisters. It is 1923 and Hattie is only fifteen. When she first walks out onto the streets of Philadelphia, she sees the difference freedom makes and vows to never return to the South again. However, she ends up marrying August, with whom life is nothing but poverty, disappointment and endless children. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie chronicles her life through the stories of her children up to 1980. The book comprises seven chapters. Each chapter tells the story of one or more of the children but also tells readers more about Hattie.

Hattie’s children are: twins Jubilee and Philadelphia, Floyd, Six, Ruthie, Ella, Alice and Billup, Franklin, Bell, and Cassie. She also ends up raising Cassie’s daughter Sala. Hattie's first children, the twins Jubilee and Philadelphia, die of pneumonia before they are a year old in 1925. Her next son, Floyd, leaves home to be a jazz musician in 1948 and faces his homosexuality and his weakness. In 1950, Hattie sends her son Six on a revival circuit in the South with his minister after beating a boy nearly to death. He decides to stay on in the South as Reverend Six.

In 1951, Hattie leaves her husband August to run off with her boyfriend, Lawrence, who is the biological father of Hattie's daughter Ruthie. Hattie returns after only a night, unable to leave her children for longer. She and August grimly come to accept their lives together. Three years later, in 1854, Hattie is 46 and pregnant again. She gives birth to her daughter Ella, but times are even leaner and Hattie is struggling to keep her children fed. Her sister, Pearl, is married to a well-off black business man in Georgia and propositions to adopt Ella. After much internal and external conflict, Hattie and August give Ella up to Pearl.

In 1968, Hattie's daughter Alice is married to a black doctor and lives in a big house with servants. She tries to keep Hatti'e son Billup her little brother forever — as someone who needs her — but he rebels. He gets a full-time job behind her back and is in a relationship with Alice’s maid. Meanwhile Hattie's son, Franklin is destroying his marriage to the love of his life through his gambling and drinking habit. Readers find him in Vietnam grieving his self-destruction.

Twenty years after Hattie’s affair with Lawrence, her daughter Bell runs into him. Bell recognizes him immediately and uses a fake name to seduce him. It is half vengeance on her mother and half attraction. At the point that the relationship is on the verge of developing into something more than a sexual one, Lawrence introduces Hattie to Bell and Bell’s ruse is up. She doesn’t see either of them for years. Ten years later, in 1975, she is willfully dying alone of tuberculosis before her mother comes and saves her.

In 1980, Hattie and August take their oldest living daughter Cassie to a mental asylum because Cassie is hearing voices that bring harm onto herself and her daughter, Sala. Sala, Hattie's granddaughter, is ten. She is torn between her loyalty to her mother and her fear of her sick mother. Hattie is overwhelmed by the emotional needs of Sala and feels that she cannot raise yet another child. However, when Sala attempts to be “saved” at church, Hattie prevents it, knowing that it is a fraudulent desire. She finds within herself the strength to once again do what is hard to save her children.

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This section contains 590 words
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