Yaa Gyasi: Homegoing (2016)

Two half-sisters are born in Gold Coast (now known as Ghana) in the 1700s. The country is a British colony and the other sister, Effia, marries a British man, the governor of the Cape Coast Castle. The other sister, Esi, ends up in to the dungeon of the same castle to be taken away to America in a slave ship.

The second book in the spring term of the English-speaking Book Club was a very strong historical and fictional novel of Yaa Gyasi. It was very heavy stuff and had a lot of food for thought for our ”five o’clock tea  conversation”. It was very well written and I just couldn’t let it out of my hands.

The structure of the book is very simple. It follows two branches of a family tree through 300 years of African and African-American history. Every chapter is a story of a daughter or a son of the previous character. Other branch tells a story of a family in colonized West African country and the other is about people forced to be in slavery and their offspring in America. It’s like a collection of short stories connected to each other. In some stories the connection with the family is very strong and in some the characters don’t even know who their parents are and sadly the reader is the only one who knows the connection to the bloodline.

A man is a very cruel animal and it was not so easy to watch the photos from the dungeons in Cape Coast Castle and it’s ”door of no return”, one of the locations in the book.

Homegoing is a book about systematic racism and stealing human dignity. It’s about the time when human being was much more valuable merchandise than gold. Still it doesn’t feast with the nastiest details but leaves them haunting in reader´s mind. It’s full of misery but full of hope too. It’s a book about slavery but also about the world changing towards freedom and self-determination of every man and independence of a country. And it has some lovely magical realism in it too which makes it more enjoyable to read.

The strongest impact of this book is that it tells stories of individuals instead of stories about nations or big crowds. It’s like a history book but instead of telling about the years of the historical events or the names of the rulers, it gives names and faces to the individuals in the way that anyone can identify with their stories. It’s fiction but it feels very real. It’s an eye-opening approach to the history of African-American’s. It reveals why the prejudice and racism still exists and for example why American prisons are occupied with people with color.

In many of the short stories I wished to know more about the characters, although the fast cuts to the next generation were effective. Some characters were so strong that I could’ve just read the whole book about them.

Yaa Gyasi (born 1989) is a writer born in Ghana but has lived almost her whole life in USA. It’s hard to believe that Homegoing is her debut novel and we were wondering what she could write after this. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a bigger picture and other angle in our recent history, and want’s a book with the flavor of life.

-Hannuhomegoing

photo: librarything.com

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