Title : Homegoing
Author : Yaa Gyasi
Publication date : June 7th, 2016
Publisher : Knopf
Genre : Adult | Historical Fiction
Synopsis : 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. (From Goodreads)
“We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always 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 begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
Here we go. I want to start off by saying that I’ve been dreading the time when I have to review this book because I feel like my words can never do it justice. That shows how in love I am with this book and I quite frankly hold it on a pedestal. Yaa Gyasi is such a gifted and intelligent writer that “Homegoing” has quickly become one of my favorite reads of 2016 and possibly -for sure- of all times.
I know that a lot of people say “I learnt a lot from this book”, “this book was eye-opening” when talking about a impactful book and I sometimes thought that they kind of made a big deal out of it because no book had really changed my life, and it still hasn’t but this is as close as it will ever get because Homegoing left a mark on me, it touched me deeply, in ways I never thought a book could. It made me feel a large scope of emotions going from anger to happiness, with hurt, disgust and fear in between. But I strongly believe that all those feelings, albeit not all pretty, were all necessary.
The writing in this book is breathtaking, it was so heartfelt and emotion-filled that I had to take breaks at some points because I just couldn’t deal with all the horrible things I was reading about. We get chapters alternating between each of the two sisters’ lineage going from parent to child at the same rate which really set the gap between the part of the family that was enslaved and the one that remained free.
The story is all about legacy, it shows how even things that we think are so old they don’t matter anymore still impact our lives. Effia and Esi are sisters who don’t know each other, the first was married off (in a horrific way I might add) to a British slaver, while the second was captured by the same man and from then on we see their lives as well as their descendants’ unfold. Effia’s side of the book is set in Ghana with characters strongly attached to their roots while Esi’s is mostly set in America after she was shipped off with characters who over times drifted away more and more from their African origins until the point where they were completely dettached because Ghana became a country that they simply knew nothing about.
This book tackles so many important issues that everyone needs to read and learn about. Biggest one is obviously slavery because that’s what the book is REALLY about, the during, the after and how it still impacts people decades afterwards, like Black Americans who were imprisoned for NOTHING just so they could make them work in the mines with terrifying conditions. But it also deals with rape, violence, injustice, identity search -especially for the half-cast or what we call mixed-race- and so on and so forth.
What’s so interesting about a story evolving over generations is that we get to see how things changed over time. With Effia’s descendants, I slowly started noticing that the superstitious elements and the beliefs (which I adored reading about) that were everything the culture was based on at first started taking a step back while schools were built, cars started making appearances and polygamy subsided. With Esi’s it was the banishement of Slavery, eventhough granted it didn’t really stop until decades after the legal suppression, the evolution of Racism as well as the apparition of hard drugs like Cocaine and Heroine.
And then, what made my heart happy is that ending, with how far the descendants have come, having it easier with each generation because of the elders’ efforts and sacrifices. Seriously, the ending made my heart swell and I’m sure it would do the same for you if you only read it. Which you really should do because this is not a book you want to miss out on.
Homegoing really made me think about things that I never considered before and taught me about a major part of history I never looked into. The story is mezmerizing and horrifiying at the same time, the things the characters went through gave me chills because it just wasn’t right, even after Slavery was over, it wasn’t really done and that was truely striking and scary.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Homegoing? If so, what did you think of it?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.
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