Why you should read: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Why you should read: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
TW: Sexual Assault, Physical and Emotional Abuse, Drug Abuse, Murder, Slavery

Homegoing is a wonderfully written #ownvoices debut book that follows the story of two half-sisters: Effia and Esi in 18th century Ghana, and their vastly different destinies. One was sold into slavery in the Gold Coast’s blooming slave trade and the other married off to a British slaver. Each chapter focuses on a different family member in subsequent generations, from the years of warfare in Ghana, where the Fante and Asante nations struggle with slave trade and the British Colonization, to the struggles of people of color in America.

So why should you read this book? If the synopsis above did not convince you, then I hope the following will!

  • The book is sadly only 300 pages long and yet the author managed to write wonderfully rich characters with a very complex background, while covering so much important and often ignored history.
  • It is a family saga following 7 generations, with 14 different perspectives in total. A different character narrates each chapter, although we still meet characters from previous chapters. It truly sounds daunting and while it took some getting used to, I assure you that you will become greatly invested in every single character.
  • Gyasi connects the stories of Effia and Esi’s descendants through history until the present time. Effia’s family remains in Ghana where we see the effects of the British Colonization and internal warfare. Esi’s descendants on the other hand grow up in North/South America- from the plantations of the South to the Civil War and Great Migration, the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama and the jazz clubs and dope houses of 20th century Harlem.
  • A book about slavery is never an easy book to read and you have to mentally prepare yourself for it. We see death, horror and brutality described quite vividly. Brutality that unfortunately can still be observed today in insidious forms of racism and violence. But we need to read these books and to open our eyes to the horrors people of colour had to go through…and are still going through. We cannot remain passive to what is happening around us.
  • The characters may be fictional but the reality is not…and neither are their hardships. Gyasi managed to put a face and personality to the history that is often forgotten or ignored by people.
  • Beautiful prose with vivid descriptions that allow the reader to connect emotionally with the characters. Obviously certain characters will stand out more than the others, but each and every one of them feels real and will impact the reader one way or another.
  • The writing is engaging and captures the different periods and generations quite perfectly. It also made me realise how much the lives of previous generations can affect the generations to come.
  • You will learn many myths and stories and will be transported through many scenes that will break your heart and others that will fill you with hope.
  • This book gives the reader a chance to learn more about the culture in Ghana, which is so interesting and fascinating. It will also teach you a lot about slavery and colonialism throughout history.

The only problem I had with this book is that I wanted it to be longer so I could learn more about the characters and the setting. I guess that’s always the case when you enjoy a book so much!

  • Favorite quotes:

“One day, I came to these waters and I could feel the spirits of our ancestors calling to me. Some were free, and they spoke to me from the sand, but some others were trapped deep, deep, deep in the water so that I had to wade out to hear their voices. I waded out so far the water almost took me down to meet those spirits that were trapped so deep in the sea that they would never be free. When they were living they had not known where they came from, and so dead, they did not know how to get to dry land. I put you in here so that if your spirit ever wandered, you would know where home was.”

“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.”

 “You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

“No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.”

x.


  • Genre: Adult: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
  • Edition: Viking, January 2017, Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • Source: Book Depository