Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – A book review
Have you ever picked up a book, and within minutes you know that it is going to stay with you for a long time? One such book for me would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Read my book review of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi to know how it fared for me.
The first time I heard about Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was in 2018. Immediately, I knew there was only two ways this could end for me – either I am going to hate it and DNF, or I am gonna find a book that would recommend the heck of it to everyone I know.
About the book
Book Name: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Genre: Fiction – Drama, History, Literary
Characters: Maame, Cobbe Otcher, Effia Otcher, James Collins, Quey Collins, Nana Yaa Yeboah, James Richard Collins, Akosua Mensah, Abena Collins, Ohene Nyarko, Akua Collins, Asamoah Agyekum, Yaw Agyekum, Esther Amoah, Marjorie Agyekum; Big Man Assare, Esi Assare, Ness Stockham, Sam, Kojo Freeman, Anna Foster, H Black, Ethe Jackson, Eli Dalton, Willie Black, Robert Clifton, Carson Clifton, Amani Zulema, Marcus Clifton
Setting: Ghana, Africa, Alabama, The USA
The book begins in the eighteenth century Ghana where the slave trade by the whites is at its peak. Effia and Esi are half-sisters born in different villages in Ghana. And it is through the lives of their descendants that we get a glimpse of history of Black lives in Africa and America over the centuries.
Effia becomes the mistress to an Englishman and lives in the comparative comfort of his castle, where unbeknownst to her, Esi among thousands of other African slaves is entrapped and sold to the America.
Esi and her family form the American history as a part of Alabama’s cotton plantations, Civil War, the coal mining and the twentieth century’s Harlem dope houses, to the present day. On the other hand, Effia and her descendants stay back in the continent to initially take part in the slave trade enthusiastically to finally fight their enslavers over the course of generations.
To know more about this family saga coupled with the history of Black lives in America and the slave trade in Ghana, you will have to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
My initial thoughts
First off I have to say Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is going to be painful, hard and intense. This plot driven multi-generational family saga has too many characters and many African words to be an easy read.
The chapters are quite short, as is the book itself, and for a few it might read like a collection of short stories.
Okay now that I have warned you about everything that could put you off and have done my part to cast away the weak hearted’s, let us talk about Homegoing earnestly.
The subject matter of this semi autobiography, a risk you take when reading an Own Voice book, is the history of slavery and the drastic mistreatment of the Blacks over the centuries. True to the nature of the subject, Homegoing is painful and makes you wonder if we have moved forward at all.
Homegoing follows the seven generations of Effia and Esi alternatively, over two continents Africa and America – that is fourteen perspectives with our 250 years cover ground. And Yaa Gyasi does it effortlessly and so intricately in about 300 pages that I can’t believe that it is her debut novel.
We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
I would go as far as telling that Homegoing had such an impact in me that I, not only had a book hangover for the next two days but also made me introspect on the effect of British oppression had on us as Indians and me as a person, in such a way that I had never thought of before.
My heart broke when Marcus tries to find his ancestors and could only reach till his grandfather H. I wished I could tell him the tales of his forefathers and that he finally reached his place in Ghana. Rarely, I get all emotional over books and I keep it objective and the point in my review, but guys, this book!!
In reality, that is literally what was done to him and the other millions of Blacks, we have uprooted them for personal gains, erased their history, not to speak of the atrocities their ancestors had to go through as slaves and second and third class citizens, and now we are still shooting them cuz of the color of their skin.
What worked for me
- I loved how each story connected to the next generation so that we don’t miss the flow at all. I loved how the stone traveled generations to reach the other half of the family.
- The writing was simple but yet so empathetic. It was so realistic that it made me feel like I know Ghana and the coal mines in Alabama, personally.
- The way the slavery and colonialism, racism and the violence of it all were written made an impact in me that my history texts never it.
- I loved that everyone I know who read this book had a different favorite character. Each of them were so well written that I can’t pick one how much ever I tried.
What may have been better
- I wish the stories of the recent generations were little bit longer. Obviously, they were great as they are but I just wanted to spend a little more time knowing them.
- If you are not a fan of plot driven books, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi may not work for you.
If you are mildly interested in knowing the history of slavery, British colonialism or history of Black slaves in the USA, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi should be your choice.
This historical fiction about seven generation family saga will satisfy both your fictional and history thirst! I will be reading more from the author definitely.
Go pick Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi already. Get your quota of reading towards Black lives matter and books by BIPOC about BIPOC or whatever other counts you have, but READ THIS BOOK.
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Have you read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi? If yes, how did it fare for you? What other books have you read lately towards BLM by BIPOC authors? Let us talk.