Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Story: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

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My roommate and I decided that we would decide on a book and both buy it so we could read it together. That is how I ended up with my copy of Homegoing written by Ghanaian author Yaa Gyasi. Thank you roomie for suggesting this be the book because I really enjoyed reading it.

Homegoing follows two half sisters – who never meet- and eight generations of their descendants, with each chapter telling a new story. One sister ends up marrying an Englishman and living in the Cape Coast Castle, while the other is imprisoned and sold as a slave. And so the books begins.

At first I found the format confusing and I hard time trying to remember who descended from whom. I kept flipping pages to figure it out but by the fourth chapter I started recognizing who was connected to who. Once I got a hang of the format, I really started to enjoy the book. One of the things that I loved most about the book was that each story was its own, almost as if they were a series of short stories. Each characters story piqued the reader’s curiosity and made them want to know more, yet at the same time no story felt incomplete or unsatisfactory.

Gyasi does a good job of seamlessly tying together multiple characters and their stories. However, I wasn’t terribly happy with the way the book ended. The ending seemed a little cliched, but at the same time its seems necessary, which left me kind of confused. In a way I like the idea of the family lines finally meeting. However, making it romantic just seemed like the predictable and safe way to end.

Gyasi talks about some pretty heavy topics through the book; slavery, addiction, rape, murder. She does it all with a grace that evokes real emotions in the reader. Throughout the book you see examples of how colonialism and in turn slavery really shaped the modern world. She shows you how the issues that African American populations are facing today in the US, all take root from slavery. How many African countries, Ghana being one of them, were completely exploited by colonialism and the problems that colonialism instigated are still affecting people today. Her descriptions of the slave trade and how they were treated had me in tears. Every character in the book had their own problems, and yet every problem was real and reflected real situations that you can see in the world around you.

Overall Gyasi does a very good job of weaving reality with fiction and creating a story that is simultaneously compelling and educational. If you’re looking for a book to read and want to try something new, I highly recommend Homegoing.

Quotes:

“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.”

“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on.”

“What could be worse than dead? But all around him, the evidence was clear. Only weeks before, the NYPD had shot down a fifteen-year-old black boy, a student, for next to nothing. The shooting had started the riots, pitting young black men and some black women against the police force. The news made it sound like the fault lay with the blacks of Harlem. The violent, the crazy, the monstrous black people who had the gall to demand that their children not be gunned down in the streets.”

“The white man’s god is just like the white man. He thinks he is the only god, just like the white man thinks he is the only man. But the only reason he is god instead of Nyame or Chukwu or whoever is because we let him be. We do not fight him. We do not even question him. The white man told us he was the way, and we said yes, but when has the white man ever told us something was good for us and tat thing was really good?”

 

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