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Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

February 2, 2018
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Alfred A. Knoph on June 7, 2016
Format Read:  Hardcover Edition (300 pages)
Genre: Historical Fiction/ African/ African American
Series: Standalone
Source: Purchased
Rating: FIVE STARS
Homegoing
~Amazon~ 
A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

VERDICT:

REVIEW:

It was amazing to glimpse a family's history from its African origins then through the ordeal of America slavery. The reality is most African American's don't have the opportunity to trace their origins from Africa. While this novel spans 250 years  and different continents the character development and flow of the plot helped it move from time and place seamlessly. The writing was lyrical and the African customs gave a glimpse into Ghana's historyand culture. Effia and Esi are two sisters who grapple try to find personal freedom while surrounded by people and systems that limit their control.
"You can not stick a knife in a goat and then say, now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean , let there be no mess. There will always be blood."
The lives of Effia and Esi's descendants are heartbreaking but reflect the hardships that have limited many African Americans. Some of the violence and devastation was hard to read because it's similar to my families experiences. Being stolen and moved into a tiny space while your friends and family die around you, will of course effect  how you find away to survive. This book is uncomfortable because it does not back away from how harmful the concept of race has been for the oppressed and the oppressors. Ultimately this book describes characters learning to be themselves in a honest way, and it was engaging and touching the entire way through.

I would recommend this book to everyone who wants to learn more about Africa and African Americans journey to now. It has some gory descriptions and themes that would be more suitable for mature, but nothing that didn't serve the narrative. I was emotionally touched by the heartbreak, joy and frustration described. I will be looking for more from this author in the future. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

 Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Berkeley, California. 

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