Cover to Cover: Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana. Effina is married to a wealthy British slaver and lives in a castle, while Esi is imprisoned beneath the very same castle before she is sold into slavery and shipped off to America. They each find out about the other's existence far too late, and Homegoing follows each of Effina and Esi's descendants through the decades. 

Yaa Gyasi gives us a small glimpse of Fante and Asante nations in Ghana as their leaders contend with the British slave trade, colonization and what's best for their villages. The actions of each character having wider implications than I ever would have imagined- reaching all the way to America and her plantations in the South. From 18th-century Ghana to 20th-century Harlem and present day, Gyasi's Homegoing was a visceral read. It brought history alive in a way few things are able to do, although we're seeing some of the ugliest parts of our history play out on the news today. Homegoing is at once hopeful and frightening, and told in such a way that I forgot I was reading fiction.

What I liked: Yaa Gyasi is a wonderful writer. Full stop. She has a talent for bringing to light what makes each character and place unique. And speaking of each character, the character development was fantastic and very well-done! I thought I'd have trouble keeping track of Effina and Esi's family line, but Gyasi left breadcrumbs for me to follow- and she was so cool about it... Just when I was losing the connection, Gyasi was there with a subtle reminder.

 

What I didn't like: The struggles faced in Homegoing are the same struggles so many people are facing today. Despite the Civil Rights Act, I see examples every day- in 2016!- of the hateful and ignorant behavior Homegoing's characters faced. It's disgusting and embarrassing. I didn't like that this story felt so real because for so many people, it isn't a story at all.