Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I had heard early acclaim for Yaa Gyasi’s debute novel, Homegoing, but it wasn’t until ElCicco’s rave review that I first thought, “I must read this.” I come and go on long family sagas, but Gyasi has forever changed the game, in my opinion. This is a must-read book, and I cannot quite say enough about it. Definitely in the running for Best Book of 2016.
Homegoing starts in the early 1800s in Ghana, with a focus on two half-sisters who don’t even know of the other’s existence. Effia is a renowned beauty raised by a stepmother who doesn’t love her and is married off to an English officer. Esi is sold into slavery. Each has a fire-polished black stone that is a symbol of her mother. The book follows each subsequent generation in Ghana and the United States in moments of history. We see the effects of slavery on both Ghanians and African American slaves. We feel the effects of Jim Crow and oppressive laws, and we see the ways that class, race, and gender intersect, too. The novel’s culmination is both surprising and moving, and it ties the threads of history together neatly and powerfully.
The writing is absolutely incredible, and you move through a lot of history in a way that is powerful and compelling. I am trying to read works by African and African-American writers that is more than “just” slavery and Civil Rights, and Gyasi fills in those gaps proficiently. Further, even though she packs in a LOT of history, the book moves quickly, a lot faster than you’d expect. You meet a lot of characters, but the vignettes are poignant and powerful, which makes the reading go faster, too. I greatly look forward to Gyasi’s next works, as her first novel is a home run for me.