The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
Alfred A. Knopf, 243 pages, $24.95
IT IS POSSIBLE that you’ve already heard of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, which was a featured selection of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, still a potent force in publishing and enough to guarantee that Ayana Mathis’ debut novel would be an instant best-seller. The book is of a piece with many of Winfrey’s selections: a finely written, often poetic piece of fiction featuring a strong if flawed female character at the heart of the story. It’s also a useful introduction to a chapter of American history that many white readers may not know about.