Book: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Length: 320 pages
Homegoing is a novel comprised of short stories following the lives of two half-sisters in eighteenth century Ghana and their descendants through eight generations into the present day.
The sisters were born into different villages in Ghana, each of them unaware that the other existed. One sister, Effia, was married off to an Englishman and lived a plush life in the Cape Coast Castle; while the other sister, Esi, was captured in a village raid, imprisoned in that same castle, and sold into slavery.
Yaa Gyasi’s novel tells of slavery’s troubled legacy on both sides: those who were taken and those who stayed.
Homegoing has won a number of awards including:
Winner of the PEN/ Hemingway Award
Winner of the NBCC’s John Leonard Award
Shortlisted for the British Book Award – Debut of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: NPR, Time, Oprah.com, Harper’s Bazaar, San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Esquire, Elle, Paste, Entertainment Weekly, the Skimm, PopSugar, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, Financial Times
My favorite things about Homegoing:
Imagery is one of my favorite literary aspects of writing. To make the reader feel as though they are present with the characters, feeling sensations from all five senses, is a gift that I appreciate.
The separate, but connected, nature of the short stories
Each chapter is a different short story of a descendant of the two sisters. Initially, they can seem choppy or disconnected, but as I progressed through the book, I came to appreciate the separation between their stories and the unique ways that Gyasi tied them together through narratives.
Family tree at the beginning of book
Before the first chapter, there is a family tree that can help to clarify the path of the stories. I purchased a used copy of this book from Thrift Books, and luckily for me, a previous owner had written in some notes about the descendants. These notes helped me to follow the lineage more clearly. If you’re not as lucky as me, I suggest jotting down notes along this family tree as you read.
A true page-turner; I couldn’t put it down!
I rarely read books very quickly. I am the type of reader who takes in books in small doses, giving myself a chance to ‘marinate’ with the material over time. However, with Homegoing, I could do no such thing. This book was so good that I read it in just a few sittings.
Relevance to my research in Black intergenerational trauma
As a first-year doctoral student, I am ironing out exactly what I want to research and I have decided upon intergenerational trauma in Black families. Although this book is fictional, it gave me a lot to think about as far as how various traumas, actions, and beliefs are passed down from generation to generation, whether intentionally or not.
It even led me to reflect on my own family tree and each individual’s story. What would be said about me?
The fact that Homegoing is Gyasi’s debut book
For this book to have received such worldwide acclaim and for it to only have been Gyasi’s first novel, I was extremely inspired to continue in my craft and passions. Anything is possible!
The ending made me cry
Because I encourage you to read it (if you haven’t already), I won’t spoil the ending. Just know that it is an emotional one and that it did help me to shed some tears! It was beautiful, inspiring, and evoked a lot of emotions within me both personally and professionally.
Have you read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi? What are your thoughts? Comment below.