Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi

Title: Homegoing
Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: 6/7/16
Pages: 300
How I Found It: I can't remember.
Date Completed: 4/21/18

Summary: Generations of Ghanaians are separate by the Atlantic when one half-sister marries a British slaver and the other is sold into slavery herself. Gyasi tracks the fates of their descendants from the early nineteenth century to the modern era. 

What I Thought: This book was just so lovely and heartbreaking. It's a great concept and Gyasi executes it well. Each chapter centers around a different character, alternating between the family living in Ghana and the family living in America. It's really interesting to track two hundred years of history through those two lenses, separated only by fate. 

This book made me think quite about about alternate histories. What would the world have been like without the slaving exploitation of Africa. Would African culture have developed differently? Western culture certainly would have. 

Gyasi's best passages and also the hardest to read are the ones centered around slavery. The chapter about the original sister who is sold into slavery is utterly heart-breaking, especially when you've just read about the more privileged yet still exploited life of her half-sister. It's easy for me, as a white American, to forget how horrific the logistics of slavery were, even before the enslaved people landed on American soil. Reading about the conditions in which the enslaved people were held was brutal, but the kind of thing that is important for us not to forget. The other chapter which also really hit me hard was one in which a pregnant wife and mother of seven is captured from up north and sold into slavery in the south, despite being born free. 

This book is part of my 2018 TBR Challenge!
I appreciated that Gyasi actually placed a lot of her American chapters in northern states. We like the brush off the historical reality of exploitation and racism that existed even in states that did not have legalized slavery. Yet, it was there. Life was not a bouquet of equality and justice for people of color in the north by any stretch of the imagination. I was glad Gyasi took that head on. 

The chapters about the African side of the family were educational to me. I don't know much about the history of that region, so I enjoyed learning more about that. Really, all of us could stand to gain a little more knowledge of African history. 

I definitely recommend this book. The writing is fabulous and the story is everything you want it to be. The ending is a little...twee, but I also can't see her ending it any other way. She made at least one big choice that kept it from being overly cliché, and I appreciated that. Still, there's a tiny bit of magical realism that threads throughout the last few chapters and I think the book could have done without that. Overall, though, this is well worth your time.

Quotes I Loved:

  • "The need to call this thing 'good' and this thing 'bad,' this thing 'white' and this thing 'black,' was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else."
  • "Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves." 

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes, quite possibly

A Reduced Review: A beautiful, heartbreaking novel that executes its unique concept quite well. 

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