Homegoing is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. Each chapter of the historical masterpiece follows a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame.
Spanning centuries and continents, the novel follows two families, one from the slave trading Fante nation and another from the Asante warrior nation, in the British colony that is now Ghana. Stepsisters, Effia and Esi, are unaware of each others existence. One will marry a white man, a British official who lives in the upper part of the Cape Coast Castle. The other, will stolen and kept the lower dungeons of the same castle and sold as a slave, transported to the American South. Subsequent chapters follow their children and following generations for over two hundred and fifty years.
One day, I came to these waters and I could feel the spirits of our ancestors calling to me. Some were free, and they spoke to me from the sand, but some others were trapped deep, deep, deep in the water so that I had to wade out to hear their voices. I waded out so far the water almost took me down to meet those spirits that were trapped so deep in the sea that they would never be free. When they were living they had not known where they came from, and so dead, they did not know how to get to dry land. I put you in here so that if your spirit ever wandered, you would know where home was.
I utterly enjoyed the book but found the book hard to read because of all the emotions that would well up inside of me.
Yaa beautifully sketches village life in Ghana before slavery, and goes on to outline the involvement of Africans in the enslavement of her own people. This for me was the highlight of the novel. There have not been many texts I have read on how villages sold their neighbours off to slave masters and how this contributed to the fall of many empires.
She does a magnificent job of relaying the story from character to character, each with symbolism behind their existence. I love how she relates fire and water and uses that to bring the two families back together. I also enjoyed how well she brings in the different eras of enslavement in America.
I found the second part of the book a little less rich in detail. It took me back to 12 Years a Slave and Django Unchained, to The Help and The Colour Purple, yet having come from chapters rich in language and scenery in Ghana, I found America to be dull.
And so they waited. Ness and Sam and Kojo, working longer and harder in the fields than any of the other slaves so that even the Devil began to smile at the mention of their names. They waited out the fall and then winter, listening for the sound that would tell them it was time, praying that they wouldn’t be sold and separated before their chance came.
Yaa also outlines all the texts she went through while writing her novel. I love when authors leave reading lists. 🙂
I would read this over and over again. It is an important piece on just how we lost ourselves, and in that she hints on the importance of literature in finding ourselves again.
Tumelo is a wolf that breathes aether…