Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Author : Yaa Gyasi 

Version : Kindle

Genre : Fiction, Historical Fiction

Source : NetGalley.com

Publisher : Penguin

Pages : 320

 

Homegoing is the debut novel of Yaa Gyasi.  The book takes us through the lives of two half sisters Effia and Esi who are not aware of the other’s existence.  Effia, the beauty, was born to Maame when she was a slave of Corjo,  deep in the forests of Ghana belonging to the Fante tribe.  At her birth,  Maame sets the village on fire and runs away.  Corjo saves the child and hands her over to one of his wives Baaba.   Corjo fixes the marriage of Effia with the leader of their tribe.  But Baaba has other plans.  She plots and gets Effia married to the British Colonial James who owns the castle and runs the slave trade.  

Unknown to Effia,  her sister, Esi is also one of the slaves living in the dungeons of the castle.  Esi lived with her mother Maame.  They belonged to the Asante tribe.  They owned a Fante girl as their slave.  Maame was soft on her considering she was herself a slave once.  Esi empathises with the girl.  She helps the slave girl to send a message to her tribesmen so she can be set free.  But, instead she gets captured and is kept as a slave to be shipped off to America.

Through the history of these two sisters,  the author traces the history of African people in America and in Ghana. She traces seven generations and two centuries of history.

This style of story telling is similar to Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy and Ken Rutherfurd’s books on London, New York, Ireland and others.

What sets this book apart is that the former books are bulky having 1000+ pages.  But this book is a mere 320 pages.  The book is so full of heart with the stories of survival of the Africans in Ghana and in the most progressive country, America.  I am not familiar with American history and am shocked by the way the slaves were treated.  Even when they are set free,  they can be arrested for so much as staring at a white person.  All the time treated as second class citizens,  their roots are snapped away and they forget their way of living, their culture and their songs.

Meanwhile in Ghana,  the people are being taught English by the missionaries and anything related to their culture is treated as superstition and black magic.  The missionaries label their superstitions as witchcraft and the women as witches.  Many are burnt alive.  Here too,  people are forgetting their once thriving culture due to the interference of the white man.  The people start to emulate them and live like white people.  There is so much of life in these 320 pages,  each character touches your heart though they are alive in only a few pages.

Unlike other books,  everything doesn’t become alright at the end and the story is still going on through the different generations.

It’s a remarkable debut.  I would recommend the book to all.  It is historical fiction based on facts.  It may be in the past,  but these are stories to be known.

Let me leave you with some beautiful quotes from the book which are true even today.

“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.”

“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”

“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.”

“If we go to the white man for school ,we will learn the way the white man wants us to learn. We will come back and build the country the white man wants us to build. One that continues to serve them. We will never be free.”

“I am proud to be Asante, as I am sure you are proud to be Fante, but after I lost my brothers, I decided that as for me, Akosua, I will be my own nation.”


The publisher  granted my wish to read and review this book on NetGalley.com in return for an honest review.

8 thoughts on “Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

  1. I haven’t read any book on historical fiction. This one seems to be a good one based on your review, Lata. I will give it a try but only after finishing up with my current TBR list. 🙂

    1. Corinne, I am sure you will like this one. It is a story told beautifully. African-American history is a bonus.

Comments are closed.