Yaa Gyaasi’s debut novel ‘Homegoing’ sets itself the unnerving task of tracing centuries of sorrow that scathed a family.
The astonishingly gifted young writer, who is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s workshop reveals that ‘Homegoing’ was an autobiographical account that stems from her quest to figure out where she belonged to. She talks about what she wanted to find about—a personal quest to find identities.
In the video review [at the end of this article], she admits that she spent her childhood trying to figure out where to fit in. She was not American enough for America and she was also not quite Ghanaian for Ghana.
The power of storytelling that is evident in Gyasi’s writing leaves a deep-seated understanding of the slavery situation that gave birth to savage realities and emotional damage that not even centuries can erase.
The novel recounts tales of profound loss and resilience especially at its conclusion, a factor that makes it easy to relate to the experiences of the characters who carry with them such an emotional burden that is not easy to shed off. It is this type of storytelling by Gyasi’s that makes it easy to foster an intimate and personal connection between the reader and the potent characters.
The book highlights that the legacy of sorrow brought about by slavery never fades much as the slaves are free. As one character states in Gyasi’s book, “When someone does wrong, whether it is you or me, whether it is mother or father, whether it is the Gold Coast man or the white man, it is like a fisherman casting a net into the water. He keeps only one or two fish that he needs to feed himself and puts the rest in the water, thinking that their lives will go back to normal. No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.” Besides tracing the lives of two half-sisters (who do not know each other) and their offspring, the novel’s chapters shift between America and the Gold Coast of Africa which is now called Ghana. Needless to say, Gyasi’s foundation is from those two locations. She was born in Ghana but moved to America when she was two years old.
According to the National Book Award- winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates , ‘Homegoing’, is an inspiration.
In one of chapter’s set in the mid-20th century, a teacher in Ghana tells his students, “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?”
Gyasi not only found several of those suppressed people but she also brought them out and gave them voices that are truly captivating.
In as much as one demand to this book is the need to have each chapter immediately introduce a new setting, the family tree at the front of the book makes an invaluable reader’s guide taking into consideration the speed with which Gyasi sweeps across the decades, jumping ahead a generation with each chapter.
‘Homegoing’ is crafted in the miraculous efficiency of 300 pages, and the exquisite language use by Gyasi makes it an extraordinary read
Let’s take the conversation online, shall we? Get your copy here and read along with us!