A New York Times Bestseller, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie,” will be the 2017 selection for New Castle County Reads, a community reading experience that culminates in an evening with the author, county officials announced Friday.
“New Castle County Reads is a great program by our library staff that brings together thousands of people every year,” New Castle County Executive Thomas P. Gordon said. “This year, nearly 100 book clubs joined in, there were dozens of events and about 2,000 people came out to meet the author.”
The program, begun in 2005, encourages reading, promotes discussion, raises awareness of libraries and creates free, public activities. Author visits, added in recent years, have multiplied participation.
Shifting gears from this year’s “The Boys in the Boat,” Daniel James Brown’s nonfiction account of the U.S. rowing team that beat the odds to win gold at the Nazi-run 1936 Berlin Olympics, the 2017 selection is a fictionalized memoir set in Philadelphia that Oprah Winfrey said “was so astonishing, it left me speechless.”
As the debut novel by Ayana Mathis skyrocketed to the bestseller list, she was acclaimed as one of the country’s top new contemporary authors.
Mathis will be the county’s guest of honor at a free, public program Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.
“We are thrilled that she is as excited as we are to have it as our selection for New Castle County Reads 2017,” said General Manager Sophia Hanson of the Department of Community Services, which includes the library system.
“This is a truly amazing book – a real page-turner – with incredible insight,” Hanson said.
“We see through the eyes of an African-American woman who fled the South in 1923 in ‘the Great Migration,’ when she was 15 and came to Philadelphia with her mother and sisters,” Hanson said. “Hattie tells the stories of her 11 children and one grandchild – her 12 tribes – with unbelievable heart.”
The book was chosen for New Castle County reads 2017 by a committee that each year solicits nominations from library staff and the reading public.
A schedule for book group registration is to be announced shortly, according to Administrative Librarian Marlene Esposito.
Published in 2013, “The Twelve Tribes of Hattie” was honored as a 2013 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, NPR Best Books of 2013 selection and the second selection for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.
A New York Times review by Machiko Katutani praised the “extraordinarily powerful debut novel,” saying its account of Hattie’s life was written with “authority and psychological precision … epic dimension – much as Toni Morrison has done with so many of her characters – while at the same time making her daily life thoroughly palpable and real.”
Mathis – who grew up in Philadelphia, where she was raised by a single mother -- is an assistant professor at the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop, from which she graduated.