Homegoing

Homegoing

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonial, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising half-caste children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon, and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and--with outstanding economy and force--captures the troubled spirit of our own nation"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101947135
1101947136
Branch Call Number: FICTION Gya
Characteristics: 305 pages : genealogical table ; 25 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Tells the stories of two Ghanaian half-sisters, one married to the British Governor, one sold into slavery, and six generations of their descendants. Selection for January 16, 2018.


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a
anndubois1
Oct 23, 2017

A book to be read and reread. A remarkable tale of the slave trade from the perspective of the European slavers as well as the many tribes involved in the trade as both victims and perpetrators. The book moves through centuries and extended families on two continents and eight generations. Though the stories of individuals we are offered the epic tale of forced migration to America, the horror of slavery, the chaos following the Civil War and the movement northward for jobs and independence. At the same time we are following the generations through the development of Ghana from a tribal, warring, slave trading nation. Each chapter is a nugget of the broader story and an intimate peak into the lives of one or more of the participants. So much is beautifully captured in a mere 300 pages.

s
shayshortt
Oct 06, 2017

Homegoing is a multigenerational epic that walks the fine line between hope, anger, and despair as the tales of Esi and Effia’s descendants unspool. Each chapter is a slice of life set against the background of a particular historical era, be it the Great Migration or the War of the Golden Stool. The full effect of the novel is such that in the end, the reader knows more about Marcus and Marjorie’s families than they do, the fall out of slavery and colonialism depriving them of their history and culture. The book is a potent reminder that the history is always there, just beneath the surface, and that the story has always been waiting to be told, though the voice of the victors has long drowned it out.

You can find my full view at Required Reading: https://shayshortt.com/2017/10/05/homegoing/

d
dirtbag
Aug 21, 2017

This was Roots: the sequel. I wonder if it was her master's thesis?

j
jstaniec
Aug 08, 2017

This book was incredible. I loved the concept and the execution. It felt very black feminist which is fantastic, too. Just amazing and I recommend this to everyone.

WPLBookClub Jul 21, 2017

The Whistler Public Library and Armchair Books Community Book Club read "Homegoing" in June 2017. While this novel isn't an "easy" read in terms of subject matter, it's an absolute page-turner thanks to the superb storytelling. We all found the family tree at the front of the book very helpful when keeping track of the characters, so perhaps the audio/eBook version would be challenging. The group favourite storyline was Kojo and Anna's love story, even though it was no less harrowing than the other chapters. Our chief complaint was that we all wanted MORE! We would've happily read this book if it were twice as long, spending even more time with each of the fascinating characters.

We particularly enjoyed discussing:
- The role of race in this story - exemplified by Willie and Robert's story - and the complex role that the Asante and Fante played in the slave trade.
- The ending (no spoilers!). Does this happy/satisfying conclusion provide levity for an otherwise brutal story, or was it too "convenient" to be believable?

c
cara123
Jun 12, 2017

Well written and captivating storytelling. You can definitely see the generational trauma of slavery/race being passed on.

2
2224966701
Jun 11, 2017

Outstanding! Great insight on slavery

k
katiefiona
May 21, 2017

Epic novel. Intriguing and a page turner.

JCLChrisK May 01, 2017

The personal stories of seven generations of a family, two branches, one each from two half-sisters who never knew of each other in 18th century Ghana. One was married to a British slaver, the other captured and sold by him. One set of stories remains in Africa, the other travels to America. Each of the 14 characters gets a chapter. Each story personifies and personalizes the experience of a time and place, most of them more unhappy than not, damaged by circumstances and people beyond their control. It's an amazing history lesson, made all the more effective by the fact that it's not teaching or preaching, simply telling simple--and moving and engaging--stories.

One passage that stands out as more explicative than the majority, yet that gives a sense of the book's scope--even as it only addresses the final four generations of one branch of the family:

"A month passed, and it was time again for Marcus to return to his research. He had been avoiding it because it wasn't going well.

"Originally, he'd wanted to focus his work on the convict leasing system that had stolen years off of his great-grandpa H's life, but the deeper into the research he got, the bigger the project got. How could he talk about Great-Grandpa H's story without also talking about his grandma Willie and the millions of other black people who had migrated north, fleeing Jim Crow? And if he mentioned the Great Migration, he'd have to talk about the cities that took that flock in. He'd have to talk about Harlem. And how could he talk about Harlem without mentioning his father's heroin addiction--the stints in prison, the criminal record? And if he was going to talk about heroin in Harlem in the '60s, wouldn't he also have to talk about crack everywhere in the '80s? And if he wrote about crack, he'd inevitably be writing, too, about the "war on drugs." And if he started talking about the war on drugs, he'd be talking about how nearly half of the black men he grew up with were on their way either into or out of what had become the harshest prison system in the world. And if he talked about why friends from his hood were doing five-year bids for possession of marijuana when nearly all the white people he'd gone to college with smoked it openly every day, he'd get so angry that he'd slam the research book on the table of the beautiful but deadly silent Lane Reading Room of Green Library of Stanford University. And if he slammed the book down, then everyone in the room would stare and all they would see would be his skin and his anger, and they'd think they knew something about him, and it would be the same something that had justified putting his great-grandpa H in prison, only it would be different too, less obvious than it once was. . . .

"It was one thing to research something, another thing entirely to have lived it. To have felt it. How could he explain to Marjorie that what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossibly large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it--not apart from it, but inside of it.

"How could he explain to Marjorie that he wasn't supposed to be here? Alive. Free. That the fact that he had been born, that he wasn't in a jail cell somewhere, was not by dint of his pulling himself up by the bootstraps, not by hard work or belief in the American Dream, but by mere chance. He had only heard tell of his great-grandpa H from Ma Willie, but those stories were enough to make him weep and to fill him with pride. Two-Shovel H they had called him. But what had they called his father or his father before him? What of the mothers? They had been products of their time, and walking in Birmingham now, Marcus was an accumulation of these times. That was the point."

k
KatG613
Apr 25, 2017

A very moving and compelling read - especially if you're interested in this particular history of Africa and slavery. The story concerns two divergent limbs of a family tree; and each chapter tells us the story of the descendant branches of the tree. In a way it's a collection of connected short stories - once you've finished a chapter you never return to that particular character. The subject matter is at times difficult - but important, and accurate. This is the kind of book I finished over a long weekend - I highly recommend it to others!

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s
shayshortt
Oct 06, 2017

You are not your mother’s first daughter. There was one before you. And in my village we have a saying about separated sisters. They are like a woman and her reflection, doomed to stay on opposite sides of the pond.

c
cknightkc
Jan 10, 2017

“History is Storytelling… This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on. But now we come upon the problem of conflicting stories… Whose story do we believe? We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there, you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.” - pages 225 & 226

c
cknightkc
Jan 10, 2017

"Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves." - page 38

r
rebmartin31
Jun 02, 2016

"'Shorter hours, better ventilation, those are things that you should be fighting for.'
[...]
'More money’s what we should be fighting for.'
[...]
'Money’s nice, don’t get me wrong. But mining can be a whole lot safer than what it is. Lives are worth fighting for too.'"

"'When a white man ever listened to a black man?'"

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s
shayshortt
Oct 06, 2017

Effia and Esi are half-sisters who have never met. First divided by their mother’s secrets, they will soon be divided by an ocean when Esi is sold into slavery and shipped across the Atlantic. Effia remains in Ghana, sold in marriage by her step-mother to the British governor of the Cape Coast Castle, where slaves are held in cramped dungeons before being loaded onto ships bound for America. In present day America, Marjorie wrestles with her identity as a Ghanaian immigrant to the United States, while Marcus struggles to complete his PhD knowing that many young black men of his generation are dead or in jail, and that only chance has kept him from the same fate. In a sweeping family saga, Yaa Gyasi follows the sisters’ bloodlines over hundreds of years, one child from each generation, tracing the impact of colonialism and slavery across the centuries, between Ghana and America.

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