Have your debut novel selected as Oprah’s second selection in her book club and you must expect for your life to change, as Ayana Mathis is now finding out. Once The Twelve Tribes of Hattie received the literary world’s highest blessing from Ms. Winfrey, her publisher rushed it to bookstores to capitalize on the wave of publicity soon to follow. Now, Mathis’ name is on the lips of readers’ everywhere, with Oprah even comparing her to the all-time great, Toni Morrison.
Twelve Tribes is a book looking at generations of a family after their matriarch migrates from Georgia to Pennsylvia in search of a better life. In taking a fictional look at the world Isabel Wilkerson told so well in her acclaimed Warmth of Other Suns, a nonfiction piece, Mathis gives it to us straight – no fantasy, just cold-hard truth. The family goes through more than its fair share of heartache throughout the story. As Mathis says in the below interview with Mathis and Winfrey, perhaps identifying the suffering is our way of releasing pain in our lives. Take a look at the interview and tell us what you think.
We highlighted the reboot of Oprah’s book club (dubbed Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 as a nod to the newly added interactive elements) with her first pick, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Now she’s announced her next selection, Ayana Mathis’ The Twelve Tribes of Hattie. Oprah said, “Not since Toni Morrison have I read a writer whose words have moved me this way.”
Each week, we’ll be helping you to get to know our winners better (what a great bunch they are) and highlighting the best of their work, interviews and essays. This week we’re highlighting Oprah Winfrey, 2010 winner for lifetime achievement.
Now, we wavered a bit on highlighting Oprah because she is so well known. With her talk show ending its 25-year run in 2011 and Oprah taking the reins of her new channel, OWN, the media has been covering Oprah from every angle, dissecting her influence on the world at large.
But we at Anisfield-Wolf selected Oprah to win the 2010 Anisfield-Wolf award for lifetime achievement because of her impact on the world of literature. She keeps innovating and striving to change the world and that’s something we can get behind. Learn more about Oprah in her 2008 Standford commencement address where she posits, “Inner wisdom is greater than wealth.”