"HOMEGOING" BY YAA GYASI-WITH LYNECIA B.
Akwaaba guys. Book of the summer!!! Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
On my Youtube channel, I call my book reviews coffee shop chat because I'm fancy but since I'm off caffeine forever, let's do water instead.
(WATCH FULL YOUTUBE VIDEO BELOW).
I have a lovely guest writer called Lynecia, who is an absolute bibliophile like I am. I asked her to share her thoughts with us because of her bi-cultural heritage (African and African-American), I felt she will have a personal attachment to the book and she was gracious enough to do so.
Find her on Twitter and Instagram @Luvnecia (she has the best book recommendations).
Now on to the review:
NANA'S THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK OF THE SUMMER.
Yaa Gyasi took us on a ride. The kind that makes your stomach turn yet make your body anxious. A ride that tests your breathing and leaves you with so many stories to tell for a long time to come. Her book starts fromthe pre-colonial, slave era of the place formerly known as Gold Coast (currently known as Ghana).
A girl who had been captured as a slave gave birth to a daughter (who is her host's offspring). She ran away. Finds herself in a marriage, births yet another daughter. And as fate will have it, her first daughter ends up marrying a British slaver who gives her the best life had to offer. Her unlucky step sister ends up beneath the dungeons in the Cape Coast Castle. One sister carrying the child of an important man and the other languishes in human waste and torture---in the same location.
The author set out to write an ambitious book,. The kind that leaves you with more questions than answers. How is she able to carry on over 15 major characters in the book with such grace and ease? How long did this path consume her thoughts?
Homegoing explores the journey of West African people, people of the Diaspora and why we are where we are now. Those who were sold and their journey through the unforgiving South of America to the Black Mecca of Harlem. Sold by their own kinsfolk, captured, kidnapped and discarded. As an Akan woman who has roots in the Asante kingdom (hell my last name is Asante), I am glad the author did not sugarcoat the story of my people. The profiteering off wars and tribal conflicts. The greed and manipulation. It was matter-of-fact and I appreciated that.
It also shows us the path of the ones who were left and how their stories never ended. The ones I hail from, who had to inherit the remnants of the past and look forward to being independent and sovereign. The ones whose mistakes I have to learn and grow from by continuing to do my part in unifying and being a Pan-African.
Homegoing is an ointment.
It is a healing.
A trail of history.
The story of our people.
Man's inhumanity and humanity.
Our past. Our present. Our expected future.
LYNECIA B'S THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK OF THE SUMMER:
Yaa Gyasi’s dynamic debut novel “HomeGoing”, attempts to plumb the fraught and fractured, yet rich and layered history of the African diaspora and Gyasi succeeds in unearthing a story of tragedy and resilience, family ties, enduring love, and one of connection. This multi-generational novel opens up in the late 18th century Gold Coast, what is now present day Ghana. Through alternating chapters we learn the stories of Esi and Effia, sisters, though they don’t know it and never meet, and their subsequent descendents, until we reach the present day.
Effia, daughter of a Fante “big man” is married off to a British slave trader, while Esi is captured from her Asante village and sold into slavery. One sister lives a life of comfort in the stately and foreboding castle that lines the shores of the Ocean as another is stowed beneath it in a dungeon as human cargo and is shipped to America to begin a life of servitude.
Esi and Effia’s generation was torn apart by the atrocity of slavery; an institution in which complicity is shared by both the European and the African, the latter’s role Gyasi does not shy away from. The narrative of the slave trade is one of: the White man goes to Africa, steals the African and sails away into the night aboard his infamous slave vessel. In reading “Homegoing”, we are promptly disabused of that notion, as we learn of the concerted effort of slave capturing and trading between Africans and Europeans, aided by ethnic conflicts and compounded by greed. The author deftly elucidated this history without finger-pointing or vilifying. After all, the past is what it is, and slavery’s consequences continue to be far-reaching and generational for her characters as undoubtedly, it has for people of African descent.
Esi and Effia’s family story is the story of all those people.
There is a family tree at the beginning of this novel that helps you keep track of each descendant, each one getting a single chapter to tell their story. I found some too short, and wanted to spend more time with each character. Some I felt like I was just getting to know and then their chapter was over, on to the next. Each character is placed within a continuous social and historical context: slave-trading in the Gold Coast, to the fight against eventual British colonization. Slavery’s decline and the advent of convict leasing.
While all of these things are happening to and around Esi and Effia’s descendants, Gyasi still managed to focus on the heart of her characters, avoiding a "textbook-y" tone. Their dreams, loves and heart breaks do just as much to drive the story forward as historical events.
As the daughter of an Asante and an African-American, I am a daughter of Esi and Effia.
To have my history explored in such a unique way drew me to this book, but in a larger sense, its exploration of the complexities Black life, its roots and what it means to be a person of African descent today are what remain with me after reading it.
If you have read HOMEGOING, share your thoughts with me below. Any book recommendations?? Drop it below. Don't forget to forward and share this review with your friends.