In the late 1700s, on the coast of Ghana, two young half-sisters (unknown to each other) meet undesired fates. Effia’s father sells her to James Collins, the new British governor of Cape Coast Castle. In the castle’s dungeon, Effia’s half-sister Esi waits with other enslaved women for transport to America. Yaa Gyasi’s illuminating first novel, Homegoing, is really a book of linked tales – moving back and forth to tell the stories of the sisters and their descendants, one generation at a time.
Gyasi, born in Ghana but raised in the American South, writes beautifully about both her homelands. Although the chapters set in the United States are compelling and important, I particularly enjoyed reading the sections focused on Effia’s family and the history of Ghana. Gyasi does not employ sentimentality and doesn’t airbrush history. In Homegoing, 18th-century Ghana is not an ahistorical rural fantasy but a complicated, multi-ethnic kingdom that enriches itself by kidnapping and selling humans into slavery. No one is completely innocent.
Homegoing is an ambitious first novel. Gyasi, who is only 26, effortlessly pulls off the novel’s conceit. She is able to capture both the heartbreak and joy of her characters, while also subtly shifting the novel’s tone and prose to fit each time period and location. Homegoing is an emotionally difficult, but very powerful, read.
Availability: USMAI, COSMOS, SMCM
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: A book written by someone under 30. Book published in 2016