Ayana Mathis’s debut novel was a bestseller in the United States. It was championed by Oprah Winfrey and compared to Toni Morrison, which might have put you off already. In truth, it bears all the worst characteristics those recommendations call to mind and few of the best.
The book opens in 1925 with a teenaged Hattie arriving in Philadelphia, part of the great migration of black Americans fleeing the Jim Crow-era South. By the end of the first chapter she has lost her twin babies to pneumonia, a loss that will reverberate through her life.
Hattie spends the next six decades “in the kitchen, cooking and displeased”. We encounter her through the eyes of her nine subsequent children (and one grandchild) each of whom gets their own chapter.
The structure has the makings of an epic family saga: interlinking characters whose lives take in the jazz clubs of the Forties, Vietnam and the civil rights movement before ending in 1980. It doesn’t deliver.
Strangely, given they grew up in the same cramped house, the siblings barely feature in one another’s tales. And though their interior lives are richly realised Mathis struggles to evoke their surroundings and social context.
“The opening pages of Ayana’s debut took my breath away,” said Winfrey, OWN CEO, “I can’t remember when I read anything that moved me in quite this way, besides the work of Toni Morrison.”
About the book
The creative process can be treacherous, even for the most experienced writer. Facing the blank page, staying inspired, sustaining momentum, managing competing priorities and coping with rejection are just a few of the challenges writers face regularly.
The Productive Writer is your guide to learning the systems, strategies and psychology that can help you transform possibilities into probabilities in your writing life. You’ll sharpen your productivity pencil by learning how to:
• Set clear goals—and achieve them
• Create a writing schedule that really works
• Discover what keeps you writing, revising, and submitting
• Carve out writing time amidst the demands of work and family
• Weed out habits and attitudes that are not serving you
• Organize your thinking, workspace, papers and files
• Increase your odds of publication and prosperity
• Use social media to build an author platform
• Get comfortable going public and promoting your writing
• Create a sustainable writing rhythm and lifestyle
• Accomplish what matters most to you
Create the writing life you most desire. The Productive Writer will help take you there.
About the Author
Sage Cohen teaches the popular online class Poetry for the People. She is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World.