~ The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.
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.
I listened to the audiobook for Homegoing, because my library didn’t have a physical copy, and I will definitely be buying myself a copy of this book. Holy smokes, this was good.
I know so many people through Twitter that read this book, and I’m so glad I listened to their recommendation.
Homegoing was an amazing saga, told through the perspective of one child from each generation, of each side of the family. I kept being drawn in and learning a little bit more from each character, and I loved it, despite the fact that every character suffered in their own way throughout the book.
Characters in this book suffer rape, torture, murder and slavery, as well as from their own devices. This is a book full of really difficult things to read about, so be careful if these things will trigger you.
One section in particular spoke to me about something I always need to remember, especially with my job as a journalist. I’ve always been taught that history is told by the people who win, and this quote perfectly encapsulates why I wanted to be a journalist. I want my voice to lift voices up that need it, and to get out of the way for them. I want to find the true story, as often as humanly possible.
~ “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.”
This was an absolute five star read for me. I can’t recommend this book enough, seriously. It’s painful, it’s heartbreaking and it’s beautiful.
Note about the cover image for this post:: this stock image is labelled as being from Elmina, Ghana, which is about 12 km from Cape Coast, which is a pivotal place in this book.
~ Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo. Homegoing is her debut novel, released June 6, 2016.
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