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A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

305 pages, Hardcover

First published June 7, 2016

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About the author

YAA GYASI was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she held a Dean's Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Brooklyn.

YAA GYASI is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com or visit prhspeakers.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 34,313 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
August 5, 2016
“What I know now, my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”

4 1/2 stars. Homegoing is an incredible and horrific look at history, colonialism and slavery in Ghana and America, across 250 years. How the author managed to create such rich characters, cover so much history, and tell such a complex, but compelling story in only 300 pages, I do not know.

I recently said in my review of East of Eden that I love family sagas. Those epic tales spanning generations and pulling you into the lives of so many interesting characters... yeah, they are some of my favourite kind of stories. Spending so long with the same family, watching them grow through the years and seeing their children face their own problems - it just feels so personal. I feel like I've grown with them.

This book, however, is possibly the most ambitious family saga I have ever read. Most books like this feature three generations. Homegoing follows seven generations, fourteen perspectives in total. It all begins with two half sisters - Effia and Esi - who will never know each other. One's experiences lead her and her family to slavery in America, the other's family find themselves mostly in Ghana.

Each chapter is from the perspective of a new character; first Effia and Essi, and then six of their descendants, as the story tracks the cultural changes in both Ghana and America - through colonialism, racism, and attitudes to slavery. Through the characters, we experience life during the tribal wars of the 1700s, the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade, the ways in which prominent leaders in Ghana aided British and American slavers, the fear created by the Fugitive Slave Act, and much more.

I can't quite reconcile the knowledge that I've read only 300 pages with the amount of history and rich characterization I've just experienced. Considering that I usually grumble when a book has more than two perspectives, it's quite something that none of these fourteen perspectives felt lacking. Gyasi is just a great storyteller; she takes important subjects like slavery and colonialism, and peppers them with perfect little conversations and insights into human nature.
“All people on the black continent must give up their heathenism and turn to God. Be thankful that the British are here to show you how to live a good and moral life.”

Also, the British really sucked back then. Thank god we got over that, pulled our heads out of our arses, and started embracing other cultures.

Oh, wait.

As is to be expected, there's a lot to be disgusted about in this book. True to history, it is full of blood, whippings, racist language, British superiority and other scenes that will turn your stomach. However, Gyasi handles it with sensitivity for her subject, ensuring that the violence is a honest portrayal of history, not gratuitous.

A gritty, detailed story about the long-standing effects of the colonization of Africa and the slave trade. A real accomplishment to cover so much history in so few pages without feeling rushed.

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Profile Image for Brina.
933 reviews4 followers
May 3, 2020
I give 5 shining stars to Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, the best debut novel I have read this year. In this semi autobiographical tale, Gyasi follows the family histories of two half sisters, Effia the beauty and Esi to reveal how their families end up. Each chapter is a vignette focusing on a family member in subsequent generations, alternating between Effia and Esi's families until we reach present day. Here are their until now largely untold stories.

Effia the beauty had been raised by her step mother Baaba who did not love her as her own. Saved from a fire that plays a prominent role in her family's history for generations to come, Effia becomes the village's beauty long before she reaches marriageable age. Baaba, who always resented Effia's presence, sells her to the British in order to ensure the Asante's place in the slave trade, and Effia marries an English governor rather than a tribal chief. The only memory she takes with her is a black stone polished by fire.

One village over from Effia's, Esi Asare becomes a spoil of a tribal war. In a subsequent war, she is enslaved and taken to the same Cape Coastal Castle where Effia lives as the governor's wife. Before becoming captive, Esi receives a black stone from her mother Maame and finds out that she is not her mother's first born, rather that she had another daughter who she lost in a fire. Through the stone and oral histories, Esi learns that separated sisters are to be forever cursed in their family history. In spite of hearing this tale, Esi is determined to hang onto her stone, even when she is sold into slavery and bound in horrid conditions for America.

Gyasi interconnects the stories of Effia and Esi's descendants by alternating chapters. Each chapter tells the tale of the next member of each sister's family down to present time. Effia's family remains in Ghana whereas Esi's descendants move back and forth between the southern and northern United States. Playing a role in each chapter is the black stone and oral tradition as well as black pride and remembering where one came from through both the good times and the sacrifices made. In addition to the family, we read how their choices reflect the turmoil happening in both Ghana and the United States up through present times, which made the book even more powerful than it would have been if Gyasi only chose to tell a family narrative.

Because Gyasi only uses twenty pages to tell of each generation, the pages are powerful and packed full of detail and flowing language. Thus, each chapter read quickly as I desired to find out how the families ended up. I enjoyed the vignette format as though it were Gyasi telling us in person the African style oral history of where her ancestor Effia started and where she ended up. It would have been interesting to know a few details in the gaps between generations, but Gyasi fills these in easily enough in the next story. An extremely powerful read being billed as this generation's Roots, I immensely enjoyed Homegoing and look forward to Gyasi's future novels.
Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 40 books160k followers
April 23, 2016

Homegoing is a very confident debut novel. Exceptionally engaging and the strongest case for reparations and black rage I've read in a long time.

Seriously, white men are the devil.

The most interesting part of this novel, the structure, also becomes the most frustrating part of the novel. The story starts with two sisters who are never allowed to know each other, and what becomes of the generations they beget, starting in 18th century Ghana. The novel beautifully explores the slave trade and imagines life in Ghana at that time, and as we move forward through time, from one generation to the next, we see what slavery becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. The early chapters are rich and immersive and I could not put the book down. I am impressed by the magnitude of the novel's ambition and how much research went into feeling like the author had, herself, seen African in the 18th century or the American South in the 19th century or Harlem in the 20th century.

The closer we get to present day, the more the chapters feel like they are designed, not so much as fictional narratives, but rather as vignettes meant to reveal specific historical moments and sociopolitical ideas-- the civil war, the end of slavery, the great migration, modern civil rights. The chapters become shorter. We have less time to feel connected to the characters and the narrative starts to feel less satisfying. And then there is the ending which is necessary for what the writer is trying to do but which also feels terribly convenient and insubstantial.

Regardless, Homegoing is one hell of a book and because the writing is so damn good, I actually appreciated the novel's flaws as a reminder that even a writer this incredibly talented is human. I recommend Homegoing without reservation. Definitely a must read for 2016.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.7k followers
February 6, 2023
Why are five-star reviews so much harder to write than negative ones?!

All I want to do is say “This book is perfect. Read it. Bye.”


Anything more than that is just extraneous.

Okay, I do also want to say that this is such a beautiful and painful representation of how white America has stolen the stories of Black people. As the reader of this story is able to learn the story of these bloodlines over the course of 300 years, constructing a narrative from ancestry to the present, so must the reader be aware of how this history has been kept from the very people who are living it. No character in this story is able to have the breadth of knowledge that any reader does, and that is not only because of the slave trade but because of the school-to-prison pipeline, because of the war on drugs, because of the racism that is present in our society to this day.

If you are able to read this book without awareness of your accountability in that process, read it again.

Also, I can mention that even though we rarely follow one character for more than 20 or so pages, nearly all of them manage to be full and real and unforgettable. (@ authors who manage to write 300 pages about one character who I still can’t be bothered to care about - you are ON NOTICE.)

And lastly, I will write the four nonsense stream of thought sentences I jotted down upon finishing this:
“This is just so gorgeous”
“The first 5 star I’ve given in months”
“You will never ever read a book like this ever”
“What a gift”

Bottom line: Required reading.

“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, to, 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.”

review to come / 5 stars

currently-reading updates

150,000 ratings with an average of 4.43..........

if i don't like this book i'm canceling myself.


i am spending this month reading books by Black authors. please join me!

book 1: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
book 2: Homegoing
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
May 22, 2021
“…that in America the worst thing you could be was a black man.”

This novel, that reads like a collection of short stories, has the unique set up of each chapter following a different character's perspective, a new generation that follows on from its descendants - from Ghana to Harlem - that are often referred back to. It's structured like a family tree, where we follow it's branches down the line to its origin. The roots; which were - and still are - constantly destroyed due to slavery, colonisation and police brutality amongst other things.

I loved the depth the characters had within each chapter. The stories are emotionally brutal and complex and the characters are extremely well-developed. We get to know them intimately though not much time is spent with them. And even though a generous amount of time passes between each chapter, each character reads like a full story. It left me wanting more when it ended and the point of view switched.

‘Homegoing’ adds a sense of urgency and relevance to the current political climate, pointing out the wrongs that existed then and now. A lot of things that happened in history still have the nerve to take place today. It's heart-breaking to read and naturally angers you, but it allows for a voice to be given to those group of people who had their voices suppressed for far too long.

Gyasi did an incredible job with this novel. I loved it wholeheartedly.
Profile Image for Maureen .
1,448 reviews7,062 followers
November 20, 2016

Right now it feels as if it's torn my heart and soul apart reading this deeply emotional book. It's been such a traumatic journey, and in addition to being profoundly moved by it all, I also feel both anger and shame at man's inhumanity to man.

Homegoing tells the story of stepsisters, Effia and Esi, and it charts their lives and subsequent generations of their families from the 18th century onwards, but most importantly it's about the slave trade in all it's grim and sordid detail. These sisters know nothing of each other's existence, and the path that their lives take are chasms apart. Effia marries an English officer and lives in luxury in the upper part of Cape Coast Castle, Ghana, whilst Esi is imprisoned in the dungeons below awaiting transportation, along with countless other poor individuals. The conditions that these people were kept in was simply appalling, and it wasn't as if life was going to improve once they were transported to a new country, because they would be kept as slaves with no real identity - they were just some rich man's chattel, there to do their master's bidding. Imagine living in a little village in Africa, living a simple life in mud huts- their lives weren't always easy, but they were free, they had identities, those little quirks that made each person individual, and then suddenly you're torn away from all that you know, into a life of slavery.

I have to say that this was a harrowing read but an important one, and I'm going to find it very difficult to put it behind me. When I finished this book I felt like a silence had descended, that feeling of how do I move on to another book immediately after reading this? How do I bring my thoughts together to write a review. I have to say that this book felt quite special. If I have just one criticism, it would be that each chapter featuring a different character, ended quite abruptly with no real flow into the next. However, this is a minor point, and didn't detract from the overall feel of the book.

It's hard to believe that this is Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, she writes with such clarity, bringing the many characters to life, both in terms of their feelings, and the situations that they had to face, and it's such a powerful piece of social history, that I would recommend it without reservation.

*Thank you to Netgalley & Penguin UK for my ARC in exchange for a fair & honest review*
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
February 21, 2021
looking for great books to read during black history month...and the other eleven months? i'm going to float some of my favorites throughout the month, and i hope they will find new readers

congratulations! semifinalist in goodreads' best historical fiction category 2016!

"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."

this is a shockingly good debut novel.

it's more accurately classified as a novel-in-stories, although there is a strong connective thread binding them together. it opens in the eighteenth century with the story of effia, followed by the story of esi. these women are half-sisters who have never met, born to the same mother into different villages and different tribes in ghana. effia marries an english slave trader while esi is herself sold into slavery. the rest of the book travels the bloodlines of these two women through time; in alternating chapters, we are presented with the perspectives of each subsequent generation born to the sisters, climbing the family tree for about 300 years and six generations, which means that after the initial story of each sister, there are twelve different POV chapters, each telling a new character's standalone story.

in about 300 pages.


and i knew this about the structure from reading other reviews of the book, but by the time i finally read this myself (thanks for the push, alex!), i'd forgotten this fact, and i kind of wish i hadn't. it's not that she doesn't pull off the feat very well, because she absolutely does, but i kept wanting to return to certain characters, and, of course, it never does. it's not a bad thing, to be so intrigued by a particular character that you're left wanting more, but with each chapter, you're uprooted out of a storyline, in some places at a very tense moment, and you need to take a moment to process what you've just read before bracing yourself for what might come next. because chances are, there will be more horrors ahead. considering the struggles and brutality these characters often faced, my complaints are pretty damn trivial; if the worst thing that happens to you all day is boo-hooing over readerly dislocation, you're having a good day.

and reading this book will make your day better. not in the sense that it will leave you with fuzzy feelings of how wonderful the world is and has always been, because this book is filled with death, horrors, violence, and it can get very brutal in its descriptions. this is 250 years of african history after all, and between the slave trade, the journey to america, the conditions of slaves in the new world, etc etc on to more contemporary and insidious forms of racism and violence, it's not an easy read, emotionally. but it will make your day better to know that there's a powerful new voice out there, telling important stories with truly captivating, transportative, effortless grace - it's exciting to read something that engages the mind and the emotions and makes you want more, especially in a debut. and it's a really gripping overview of a history made up of those "suppressed voices," told in vignettes that cover a lot; providing that clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.

the only thing preventing this from earning a full five-star celebration is that some of the characters, especially in the more contemporary times, were not as interesting to me as previous generations, and some were altogether forgettable, even though her writing remained strong and fluid throughout, so it's never a drag to read. and i definitely loved marjorie.

Marjorie wondered if she was in love. How could she know? How did anyone know? In middle school she had been into Victorian literature, the sweeping romance of it. Every character in those books was hopelessly in love. All the men were wooing, all the women being wooed. It was easier to see what love looked like then, the embarrassingly grand, unabashed emotion of it. Now, did it look like sitting in a Camry sipping whiskey?

the quickchange POV's sometimes forced me to refer to the family tree in the front, to remind me which a to b to c this character's line was on. it's easy enough to remember if you're on effia or esi's line, and to remember the generation just before each story, but when you get to the point where you have to remember 4, 5 generations back, when it's alternating between the two lines, it can get a bit blurry. not that that's necessary to understand or appreciate the book - it was just for my own needs, because i like to trace storylines and look for patterns, echoes, repetition. but warning - looking at the family tree is kind of spoilery because you know who's going to hook up with whom, and you know that they won't die before they breed. after that, though - no promises.

it's always invigorating to come across a particularly strong debut novel; to know that this author is likely to get even better over the course of their career. i cannot wait to see what she writes next, because this was such an intense and beautifully-written book. i'd earmarked a ton of quotes that i wanted to share and discuss, but they don't seem quite right now, excised from their surrounding narrative. so you'll have to discover them yourself, in the course of reading this book, and i'll just leave you with the passage that hints at the book's title:

"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."

Marjorie nodded as her grandmother took her hand and walked her farther and farther out into the water. It was their summer ritual, her grandmother reminding her how to come home.

and i also want to take a second to plug one of my favorite books of all time, one that also covers african complicity/involvement in the slave trade and its horrors: The Book of Night Women. it's jamaica, not ghana, and it's even more brutal than this one, but it also has one of the best characters ever written and it left me with the same feeling of discovering a new writer as this one did. and marlon james went on to win the man booker, so i'm wishing the same success to gyasi.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews925 followers
May 14, 2022
“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?"

Isabel Wilkerson Reviews Yaa Gyasi's 'Homegoing' - The New York Times

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is an ambitious and powerful novel which follows the descendants of two half-sisters in Ghana, some of the descendants stay in Ghana and some are shipped to America as slaves. In one way, the chapters of this novel (which follow descendants of the two sisters and span roughly 250 years) read like short stories because they introduce a totally new character in a new locale. However, these chapters bleed into each other and the emotional power of the accumulated stories (the lives led by the descendants) continues to build as we approach the present.

Besides the tragic stories of those who grew up in slavery or slavery’s aftermath in the United States, it’s also fascinating to read the stories of those who stayed in Ghana. They don’t become slaves, but their lives (and the lives of their descendants) were forever changed by slavery. The various chapters should definitely be read with an eye toward the greater work; however, there were stories and characters which made up the book that I identified with more than others.

I identified with Marcus, a character who researches and feels incredible pressure to tell an ugly family history. His research doesn’t take him to the beginnings of the novel, but to a grandparent, H, who spent years of his life as convict laborer in the mines (because of a minor infraction). Marcus’s not finding his way all the way back to those sisters in Ghana show how difficult it is to penetrate the lived history of slavery in this country. His passion also speaks to how difficult it is to know who you are without your history.

If you haven’t read this novel yet, it’s time to do so. This is an incredibly powerful novel! Highly recommended!

Aside, I met and introduced Yaa Gyasi at an author event in Wyoming in March (on International Women’s Day)! This was a fabulous experience! Yaa talked about her research on Homegoing, her decision to fictionalize this history, her approach to writing as well as the novel’s reception.

Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
701 reviews3,355 followers
September 13, 2023
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Homegoing is a multi-generational saga that follows the descendants of two half sisters, Effia and Esi, across three centuries, beginning in eighteenth-century Ghana and arriving at the present day.

Each chapter of Homegoing introduces a new character, which means readers are subjected to endless amounts of backstory - seamlessly integrated albeit wearisome. In many cases, when a character's story reaches its apex, the chapter ends, giving no immediate sense of resolution. Two chapters later, some explanation for how a character's story ends is tacked onto the narrative of whatever new ancestral character is being introduced. Reading this book is akin to reading a collection of short stories, most of which lack a complete story arc.

The problem with introducing so many characters is that readers are afforded such limited time with each of them that it's difficult - almost impossible - to form any sort of emotional attachment to any of them. It gives the sense that readers are distant bystanders, too far removed from the story to be personally invested.

The most notable characters are half sisters Effia and Esi. The entire book hinges on their having never met, and it seems like a missed opportunity not to have dedicated the novel to their story alone.

"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."

Homegoing's strength has to do with the author's depiction of Africa and America across centuries. Life and customs in Ghana are portrayed in rigorous detail, the horrors of the slave trade are acutely rendered, and the rising up of a nation built on prejudice and discrimination is depicted with exactitude.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,783 reviews14.2k followers
June 23, 2016
Stunned, just absolutely stunned that this is a début novel. 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, who 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, in the lower dungeons of the same castle and sold as a slave, transported to the American South.

Any book about slavery is going to be hard to read and this book is no exception. In alternating chapters, we go from Africa, to the south, and follow the descendants of the two women. We see what happens in Africa, the effects of the British Colonization and internal warfare. The South, slavery and then quasi freedom but under Jim Crow laws. South Carolina and its eugenic provram.Rather than reading as a novel it is almost like portraits, snapshots of the lingering effects of slavery. Characters change often, each chapter narrated by another though some overlap, this took some getting used to but each character was important, each character I took to heart. The writing is fantastic, the imagery of fire and water following the different family lines.

Needless to say there is not alot of joy within, but there are occasional glimpses. The novel does end on a surge of hope and another fantastic visual. I cannot wait to see what this young, already accomplished author will tackle next.

ARC from Netgalley.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews618 followers
November 14, 2016
"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".

"Homegoing" was one of the Fiction books nominated for best books of the year by members on Goodreads. It made the first round-cut. I'm on a mission to read other desired - TBR -nominated books before the year is up.

Since there are many wonderful, "HOMEGOING" reviews before me, here on Goodreads....here's a little side dish to the already great community book-pot.

...Fantastic debut novel
....powerful storytelling
....Having the physical book made it easy to refer to the family tree of generations.
If I started to forget which person intimately belong to another, having the physical book made it easy to flip to the genealogy chart.
.....The two main family sides to keep track of was Effie or Esi. ( given my name is Elyse...I had no problem keeping track of the connections that follow the 'E' girls. --
I had already heard from other readers that they wished the stories were longer of each character....more information about them. KNOWING this ahead of time was useful information- for MY TURN in reading this book -- OTHER READERS REVIEWS HELPED GIVE ME A CONTEXT WITH THIS NOVEL....so that, I was able to avoid pitfalls - and get most value. The way I saw the short chapters were a little like short stories WITH A PURPOSE contributing to the GREATER CONTEXT.,

....The author drives home the evilness that slavery is. The fact that in 300 pages, Yaa Gyasi covers 300 years-worth of the damaging effects that the 'institution-of-slavery' had on people through personal family stories.....getting a 'glimpse' at each of them.....
is a remarkable achievement.
.....The characters feel very real. If I was told ahead of time that this was a true story about real people... I would have believed it. The author allows us to see all sides of slavery ( none of it is a pretty picture).... but she steps back from judgement and allows us to look at the inner demons -of the self absorbed- greedy - misogynistic African and American man.
Gyasi reminds me a little of another great author - another great storyteller who doesn't take sides on issues - even horrific evil issues - rather stays on purpose with his storytelling: T.C.Boyle. A book which comes to mind is 'Tortilla Curtain'.

I don't mean to sound intellectual about this book because it's not where my heart lives.... I was simply trying to support another reader -in ways other readers have helped me. In a book about slavery through generations a with so much to cover, I feel 'communities' ought to read this book together, and talk about it.
.....at the same time it's an important book. The history of how groups of slavery migrated from Africa to America is informative-- and fills in holes with our own understandings. This novel is both educational and intimately personal.

Our hearts get filled ....and our minds are thankful!
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,548 followers
March 15, 2021
Read 2017

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must 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 get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

I was a bit afraid to read this novel because of its hype as it seems that recently I do not fare well with overpraised novels. I can safely say that I needn’t have worried. The book lived to my expectation and I felt touched by most of the characters. The writing is beautiful, powerful, heart wrecking.

It took me a while to finish as I listened to half of it on audible. I usually listen to audio books when I run and due to cold weather, that did not happen very often. At midpoint I switched to the print version and that went much better, succeeding to draw me back into the stories as listening for 10 minutes here and there was distracting.

The novel mingles the stories of two half-sisters which never met, who lived in Ghana in the slave commerce period and of seven generations of descendants that followed. We follow Esi as she is sold into slavery and then we are introduced to her descendants as they struggle as slaves and then as free black people in racist America. On the other side, Effia is married with an English slave merchant and moves with him in Cape Coast Castle. Her descendants struggle with their legacy as slavers, their identity as tribe members and the fight for a free Ghana. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one family member, one chapter from Effia’s descendants and then one chapter from Esi’s. It was impressive that for a small book (300 pages) it packs a lot of history of the hardship black people had to face because of slavery from the 18 century until recent times.

The only downside for me was that, due to the large number of characters I had moments when I felt disconnected with the story. When I was beginning to understand and care for a character the next chapter started and a new story emerged, without too much connection with the one before.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews159k followers
June 13, 2017
This multigenerational epic has already gotten lots of attention, and it deserves every bit of it. Gyasi’s debut novel begins with two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana, strangers to each other. Effia marries a white man, and Esi is enslaved and taken to America. The novel follows the children of these two women through the generations, alternating between Africa and America. As we meet each new descendent, we see how the legacy of slavery plays out across history, both for the enslaved and for those complicit in the slave trade. Each chapter reads like a single short story, but the forward momentum across time gives the book a novelistic feeling. I adored this book, finding it illuminating, heart-breaking, and beautiful to read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

— Teresa Preston

from The Best Books We Read In March 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017/04/04/riot-r...

Pretty much everyone at Book Riot has been raving about this book, but I’m going to rave about it some more. I hope you guys aren’t tired of hearing about this book, because it really is that good. It’s a multigenerational family saga about two sisters born in 1700’s Ghana and separated at birth, and each chapter alternates between the different family lines, looking at a different generation each time. You don’t get to spend much time with each individual character, but the breadth and scope of the story is mind-blowing. And with each new chapter, we see how the injustices of the past, whether they’re rooted in American slavery or African colonialism, build on each other to affect the future. The story is brutal, but the language is absolutely gorgeous, and this is a MUST READ for anyone looking for a new perspective on racial history. I’m blown away that this was a debut novel.

–Katie McLain

from The Best Books We Read In September 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/10/03/riot-r...


Homegoing is a multi-generational saga that spans two continents and over two hundred years. The story follows two Ghanaian sisters and their descendents. One sister marries an Englishman and goes to live in Cape Coast Castle; the other is sold into slavery and passes through the castle on her brutal journey to the plantations of the American South. The book reads like a series of interconnected short stories, each chapter focusing on one character in the family tree. I was completely blown away by beauty and poignancy of Gyasi’s writing and the skill with which she executed a story of such grand scale. I was completely gripped from the first page.

–Kate Scott

from The Best Books We Read In August 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/08/31/riot-r...


I don’t know what higher compliment to give this book that to say that it was responsible for a very burnt curry one night. I was just going to read a couple of pages while the sauce simmered! There is no “couple of pages” with this tale of two half sisters in Ghana, Effia and Esi, and their descendants. Rich, evocative and emotional, I savoured every page. — Rachel Weber

from The Best Books We Read In February: http://bookriot.com/2016/03/01/riot-r...


This multi-generational novel has been getting all the positive buzz by other Book Rioters so I knew I had to pick it up myself and give it a try. The story begins with two half sisters and follows the family tree down those branches across around 100 pages through Ghana and (eventually) the United States. Each chapter follows a different member in the family line, alternating between different sides of the family. Despite the fact that you are only seeing snippets of each person’s life, Yaa Gyasi is still able to create a connection between the reader and these characters. Each chapter is filled with so much emotion and depth and tackles so many different topics. Even though so much of this book was so emotional, I didn’t want to put it down.

— Rincey Abraham

from The Best Books We Read In May 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/06/01/riot-r...


By now, you have heard several Rioters rave about this book, and you are sure to hear about it from several more. Possibly the best book of the year, this amazing novel stomped my heart flat with its wrenching story of sisters and slavery. Spanning three hundred years, Homegoing follows the stories of two half-sisters in Ghana – one made a wife, one made a slave – and the lives of their offspring in several countries, and throughout wars and jealousies, births and deaths. Gyasi’s writing is astoundingly remarkable. The fact that this is her first novel is almost incomprehensible, because it’s perfect.

– Liberty Hardy

from The Best Books We Read In June 2016: http://bookriot.com/2016/06/29/riot-r...
Profile Image for Jennifer Masterson.
200 reviews1,169 followers
June 25, 2016
My heart hurts and there is not enough Ben and Jerry's in this world to soothe it! After reading Homegoing I am literally spent! This is not a bad thing. This is just a very sad novel!!!

Homegoing covers the mid 18th Century to present times. It follows two different tribes in Ghana ( Fante and Asante), two different families, and specifically two half sisters, Effia and Esi and their offspring. The sisters know nothing of each other. Both sisters are living in Ghana. One sister stays in Ghana and marries a British soldier working in the slave trade (although the soldier is married to another woman in England and has a family there as well) while the other sister is sold into slavery and is shipped to America.

Why did I give it 4 Stars as opposed to 5? The book was too much for me. It spanned too much time and there were too many characters in it. I felt part one was a solid 5 extremely powerful stars. Part two was 3.5 stars because it felt a bit forced. The narration by Dominic Hoffman was fantastic and 5 Star! This is great on audio!

I did find the black stone necklace that was passed down from generation to generation to be a very cool symbol that the author incorporated into the story.

I read this book because of my friend Diane's review. It is much better than mine and she liked the book more than I did. Check it out here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The writing is exquisite. Yaa Gyasi is an extremely talented writer. This is such a powerful debut and I can't wait to read her next book!

Highly recommended to everyone. It's not an easy read but it is a very important one!!!

Now I'm going to go and curl up with my furfamily and decompress. These past few days have been intense.
Profile Image for PorshaJo.
467 reviews672 followers
June 24, 2016
There are sometimes when you read a book, you finish it, close the book, and think to yourself, that was good. Then, you simply and immediately pick up your next book and dive right in. Not giving that original book another thought. Then, there are those rare occasions where you read a book, finish it, simply close the book, and sit there stunned. You think to yourself, what the heck do I read next, knowing the next book will not compare. Knowing you can't get that original book out of your head and for days after finishing, that is all you think about. This is one of those rare occasions for me.

Homegoing tells the story of two half sisters, Effia and Esi. Born to different villages, who grow up in different circumstances, and have *very* different lives. The book tells the story of many of their descendants covering over 300 years. It goes into great detail of slavery in the 18th century, how slaves were captured, and sold, and brought to America, used in mines, moving from Ghana to the South (Alabama) and to New York. There is so much tragedy on both sides of these families.

Each chapter is a story of one the girls descendants, alternating between Effia and Esi's sides of the family. There are a lot of characters in the book and at times, it can be difficult to keep track of who is who. The book includes a family tree which makes it easier to keep track of them. Not every characters story is cleanly wrapped up and some character you learn more about what happens to them in their children or grandchildren's story. Some, you just don't know. And to me, this all added to the overall story. Perhaps some people might not like that and want each story neatly wrapped up.

Homegoing is not an easy read. Often times, it's brutal in its depictions of what happened to these characters/people. I found myself thinking at times, did that really happen in our history, and it is quite sad to think, yes, it did. I think perhaps I should feed bad that I enjoyed (is that the right word) reading this book when it deals with such horrible atrocities. But I feel that I learned so much about this time in our history, even though this is fiction. It makes me sad to know this did happen. I'm also very shocked that the author is 26 and grew up in Hunstville, Alabama. To write a book so vivid on descriptions of Ghana and slavery and this epic saga over many years......I have no words. Congrats to Yaa Gyasi and I look forward to see what you give us next.

I listened to this book via audio and the narrator was perfect. His voice, tone, and sometimes accent added to the overall experience of the book. I would highly suggest to pick up the audio but also, using the family tree of descendants to keep track of everyone.

This is so far my best of 2016, a favorite, and one I would read again in the future. And I plan to read it next time.

Profile Image for Carol.
368 reviews353 followers
December 3, 2016
“Every moment has a precedent and comes from this other moment, that comes from this other moment, that comes from this other moment.” - Yaa Gyasi

26- year old Yaa Gyasi wrote this debut novel after visiting Ghana, her native country, 18 years after her family moved to the United States. There to research a future novel, she visits Cape Coast Castle where slaves were kept in dungeons while awaiting transport to the new world. The author stated (in an interview) that the castle visit gave her the impetus to delve into this story. As a result, these early chapters were the most haunting sections of the book for me. It was almost unbearable to read Gyasi’s description of the brutal and horrific conditions that Esi, the half-sister, endured in the dungeon while awaiting her turn to board the ship. The scenes of stacked bodies lying within their own waste were so vivid that I also felt entombed, smothered and oppressed within that godawful dungeon.

Cape Coast Castle located on the Gold Coast of Ghana

It’s an astonishing piece of work that explores interconnected stories and big themes such as the diaspora of Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the complicity of the West Africans with European enslavers and the appalling effects of long-standing racism. And…she miraculously accomplished this in 300 pages! The novel moves between continents and over centuries to follow the descendants of two half-sisters from Ghana’s Cape Coast. One sister is married off to a British slave trader and lives in the upper levels of the slave castle. Unbeknownst to her, the other sister is captured, held in the castle dungeon below before being sold into slavery in America.

Each generation is a brief chapter and the characters within those chapters give a human face to a period in time in which they live. It’s a testament to the author’s talent that she is able to draw you in quickly with each short story that ultimately highlights the human dimensions of slavery’s legacy, racism and of a segregated culture.

This is an eloquent, spare and poignant book. It’s beautifully told and compelling to the end. I recommend it highly!

Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
August 23, 2020
Because it--coupled with a once-in-a-lifetime trip into el mero corazon Azteca i.e. Mexico, Distrito Federal--affected me oh so much at just the correct time, "Homegoing" for me is the BOOK OF THE YEAR. It tackles huge themes (the main & overpowering ingredient in all the realm of literature is this confidence on the auteurs part to handle & fashion the ethereal) with the verocity and insatiability of a killer shark. Gyasi is the perennial literary Great White Shark--less common this species is than the Great White Whale of Literatureland. Each one of Homegoing's stories is a tragic-filled morsel of third world suffering. Of omnipresent sorrow. The type which you, as a super lucky individual, couldn't even begin to fathom or properly imagine.

Tribulation, plight, anarchy, struggle, struggle, struggle... With this masterful novel it's not a question of will you cry but When. Beautiful!
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
October 19, 2020
After 62% / 85% 100%:
I am too stubborn to quit, but I am not enjoying this. Not because it is dark, but because it offers only snapshots, brief glimpses of events and people.

This book is not for a reader who wants focus upon character portrayal. You start with two half-sisters. It is not about them, but about their many, many descendants. You get short glimpses, a patchwork of many, not an in-depth understanding of any. Confusing if you try to keep track in your head of the familial relationship of the long string of characters, generation after generation and on different continents. The story doesn't flow clearly from one descendant to the next; it jumps in time and place, from the African Gold Coast (present day Ghana) to the US. A chapter in Africa followed by a chapter in the US, and so on. I found the African names difficult to distinguish, particularly in the beginning. The story starts in the middle 1700s and progresses forward in time by means of jerks and backtracks. You leave a character. When you next meet the character again it can be decades later. Then you backtrack to fill in what has occurred in the interim. Sometimes they even go by a different name. I find this disjointed. With other characters having been followed in-between, it is easy to become confused. It is true; the end ties up neatly.

I have lost count of the number of characters. This is a relatively short book. With so many characters you can easily calculate you are not going to get much about any one.

The language is simple, matter of fact, basic. No nuance. No beauty of expression. Little description, rarely an adjective. Flat. The story is told rather than shown. Occasionally I have hit upon a line that I do appreciate: "No one will forget they have been captive even if they are now free."

Well I finished it. The ending? Symbolism galore and too for me! The story ends at the turn of the 21st century.

The narration by Dominic Hoffman is very well done. The steady clear intonation fits well the lines and the language of the book.

This is less a story about a family than about the travails of black people over the centuries and on different lands. It is the history of a people abused for centuries.

I discovered after finishing that the audiobook is accompanied by a PDF file with the family tree. I wish I had discovered this at the start!
Profile Image for Candi.
623 reviews4,718 followers
February 7, 2017
"He had always said that the joining of a man and a woman was also the joining of two families. Ancestors, whole histories, came with the act, but so did sins and curses. The children were the embodiment of that unity, and they bore the brunt of it all."

Homegoing is an astonishing and heartrending debut novel written by the undeniably talented Yaa Gyasi. Truly epic in scope, the book covers a span of about three-hundred years from the eighteenth century straight into the twentieth century. Alternating between Ghana and America, Gyasi weaves a masterful account of the lives of two sisters, Effia and Esi, and their descendants. One sister wed to a British slave trader and the other doomed to the horrific fate of a slave bound for the American south, both will suffer from the legacy of slavery, injustice and greed as the consequences seep through the generations of each of their families.

The reader follows a large number of characters who, for the most part, are given a single chapter in which we learn of their life, their hardships, fears and desires. On rare occasions, we are able to feel their joy. The symbolism of fire, water and a special necklace follow them all. I learned a lot about the tribal warfare of western Africa and the colonization by the Europeans, all which led to the realization of something as horrific as the trading of human lives in exchange for power and money. Some accepted the legacy of their fathers and mothers and others sacrificed so much to escape the injustices imposed on themselves and others. I was familiar with the stories of the southern plantations, the lives of those that were “free” but oppressed by the Jim Crow laws, and the great migration to the north where many sought what they hoped would be a better future for their families and children. But each story I hear is unique, each individual has their own personal sufferings, and I cannot help but feel for every single one. Many are such heartbreaking stories. Women like Willie who would set her soul free and learn to sing again, and men like Yaw who bore indescribable physical and emotional suffering but could also be set free by the gift of forgiveness – such accounts brought a glimpse of light back into their lives and this book.

My only wish as I read this powerful story was that I could spend more time with each character. In some ways, this felt like a series of interconnected short stories. At first, I became a bit confused when the narrative jumped to a new character. A family tree at the beginning of the hard or electronic copy is definitely a plus. As the book progressed and I realized the intent, I easily settled in and went with the flow of Gyasi’s skillful writing. I just loved the way everything was tied together when I turned the last page. I will jump at whatever this author has in store for us next! I can only imagine the superb character development that would result from the penning of a novel with perhaps fewer characters. At the same time, I feel that the goal to present us with a saga illustrating the institution of slavery and its effect on multiple generations was accomplished with competence and dignity. I will not soon forget this stirring novel. Highly recommended with a rating of 4.5 stars!

"Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home."
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews899 followers
April 17, 2017
When a book is as popular and praiseworthy as this one, it’s easy to join the chorus justifying why. It’s much harder to come up with anything new to say. I’ll attempt the latter in a minute, but first here’s a recap of what others have already said:

» Young, debut author born in Ghana, brought up in Alabama writes a brilliant novel spanning multiple generations, putting faces on the African and African-American experience.

» The story begins with Effia (the beauty) who seemed destined to become a tribal big man’s wife who instead is married off profitably to a British officer there for the slave trade. Esi, a half-sister Effia knew nothing about, is captured in a neighboring village, brought to the horrific dungeon (with worse conditions than a caged chicken’s) at the Cape Coast Castle where Effia lived, and is ultimately shipped off to America.

» The book proceeds to tell the stories of characters in each subsequent generation, alternating between Effia’s line in Africa and Esi’s in the states.

» Projecting into slavery and racism in the abstract is bad enough, but when it’s personalized through characters we come to know and admire, it sucks even worse.

» Life in Africa wasn’t always great either with raids on villages, battles against the Brits, my-way-or-the-highway missionaries, and complicity among the Asante in the slave trade.

» Character profiles allowed Gyasi to hit on many endemic hardships. Among the most affecting were: difficulties in being mixed race, severe pain and scarring from the lash, trumped up charges forcing labor in the coal mines, the lure of an artificial escape (narcotics), and racism that may attenuate over time, yet still persists.

» The only real criticism I’ve heard is that the characters can seem underdeveloped. With only twenty or so pages for each one, we don’t get to know them all that well. Reviewers who dock a star invariably cite this as the reason.

» Nobody I’ve seen docks more than one star – for any reason.

Hmm… did I really commit to saying something new? Let’s see [scratching head, looking simultaneously sheepish and stupid]… Uh, well, there’s this:

» Skin tones of different characters were often mentioned, almost always as some combination of a caffeinated beverage and dairy, with proportions varying.

» At times, other properties of flesh (e.g., fullness, jiggliness) were detailed as well. Looks were emphasized quite a lot.

» This isn’t so much a new thought as it is an amplification on a previous one. With the brief time spent with each character, Gyasi does an impressive job of highlighting personal experiences that may well have applied to many at the time. Each had idiosyncrasies, too. But if I’m honest, generations are already fading from my memory, and I’m only a week removed from them. Too many faces come in too short a time to keep track.

» Related to the previous point, the character vignettes often ended abruptly. After seeing this pattern repeated, it felt like a device. And it kind of broke the spell.

» Again commenting on the brief stints with each character, individual dramas had little time to build. I appreciate that Gyasi could bring forth an epic feel in 300 pages, but certain characters deserved more, I felt, to really permeate.

Like I said, it’s hard to find anything new to say since Goodreads reviewers have already covered the relevant ground so well. As further evidence, I’m not the first to highlight the quote below. But it came from one of my favorite characters, a teacher in Ghana disfigured by fire, so I have to include it.
[…]when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice [from the one in power] 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.

Nice take-away point, wouldn’t you say? Gyasi epitomized this view of history with her rousing historical fiction.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,174 reviews8,395 followers
July 9, 2016
An absolutely stunning debut; one of the best I've read. Yaa Gyasi captures so many stories and handles them beautifully. We need more novels like this. And it's only her first! I can't wait to see what she does next.
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
575 reviews760 followers
February 14, 2020
I stayed up until 5 am reading this and can I just say it was really really good. I was really engrossed while reading and I didn't even realize I should probably go to sleep. That said it was a hard book to read at times, as is any book covering slavery and the subsequent pervasive racism in this country. At some points I really wished we could stay with some characters longer though but I think that just goes back to how good the writing was and how easy it was to slip into the characters lives and empathize with them. Like I kind of wish we knew what happened to Kojo. I wasn't as in love with the ending as I was with the rest of the book though, mostly because I never like endings and because really its always hard to end things in a satisfactory way. This was a 4.5 stars for me definitely.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,800 reviews2,393 followers
September 3, 2016
4.5 Stars

Covering the Asante and Fante tribes from 18th Century to the present, Homegoing follows two different families, two half sisters, Effia and Esi and their offspring. The sisters grow up knowing nothing of the other. Both are given a black stone necklace, to be passed down to the next generation. Both sisters are born in Ghana, spend their early years in Ghana, Esi is shipped to America as a slave. Effia stays in Ghana and marries a British soldier who works in the slave trade, living in the Castle above the caves, where Esi is first taken before beginning shipped to America. His other wife and family live in England. Effia’s lineage stays in Ghana, enduring their own terrible conditions, bearing their own sorrows, until one leaves for a life in America.

There is a plethora of heartache and tragedy, despicable conditions. There is little reason for joy, but there is love, enough love to keep going, to keep hope alive.

For me, it spanned so much time compressed down, some parts, as a result, felt a little rushed to me.
There were so many characters, spread through so many generations that I wanted to know more about. Throughout, the story is undeniably gripping, the writing superb, even through the deeply dark stories of some of the lives. This debut novel is simply stunning.

Reading this was an intense experience, Gyasi’s passion for this story will grab your heart and leave you thinking, and feeling for a long time.
Profile Image for Jibran.
224 reviews665 followers
July 25, 2016
We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?

A literary DNA test of Homegoing would reveal it to be a direct descendant of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart; but whilst the latter is a pioneering attempt at a coherent English-language novel that explores the sociopolitical impact of British colonialism on the Nigerian native, Ms Gyasi’s book suffers under the weight of its own scope and, as the interconnected stories accumulate, loses all claim to characterisation, coherence, effect, and that initial flurry of intimate and ominous writing that held my interest for the first few stories, before it fizzles out like a candle that is only half burned but cannot shine any more light. Let me explain why.

It’s an ambitious project. Ms Gyasi has positioned the needle point of the compass on Ghana and, starting from mid-18th century onward, gone round and round and round and round the map, to encircle and record all major events in the history of the Black people - from the earliest slave ships bound out of Cape Coast to inopportune mixed marriages, and from being whipped to death at the hands of settlers at American cotton plantations to finding their lost voice in the Civil Rights movement two centuries later.

Each episode is led by an eponymous character whose story is hastily and perfunctorily told in 20 to 30 pages, using the device of plentiful flashbacks to connect the dots, and just when you feel you’re getting to know your man (or woman), the story ends and a new character comes in to take the marathon stick and runs you through yet another gory episode in the universal history of the Black people.

Now, this is enough criticism already. This is a debut novel and I must cut her some slack. So whence come the high rating? Clearly it’s the content, the material weaved into the stories: misfortune, war, tragedy, slavery, inhumanity, and oppression suffered by the weak at the hands of the powerful, by the barbaric races at the hands of the civilised people (irony, anyone?). The overall effect created by these stories rents your heart asunder. But still, it would serve to stress that it does not read like self-conscious pity-me misery porn, the appeal to raw sentimentalism, which I do not like in my literature.

Although the writing is quite basic and the focus is entirely on narrating the events in the lives of each of the characters, I appreciated the three-four opening stories set in Cape Coast’s Fanteland (which is the most Achebe part of the book) where warring tribes eager for supremacy against their rivals had been helping the British to capture and enslave their own people. This shows that both British and the black natives were guilty participants in the original sin to start up the transatlantic slave trade but whilst Western countries gained a huge economy on the back of slave labour, what little the natives got paid for it did not benefit their local economies in any substantial way.

I liked how a local Fante myth (superstition?) was used to imagine the story of the two half-sisters who did not know about each other's existence and whose mother at first suffered the fate of the captured slave, beaten and raped, from which a girl was born, but later found happiness with a man who had taken her after her fiery escape. For generations to come, both her daughters and their descendants would share in the fate of their ancestor.

One half-sister is taken by a British officer as his “wife” – wife in inverted commas because:

She’d heard the Englishmen call them “wenches,” not wives. “Wife” was a word reserved for the white women across the Atlantic. “Wench” was something else entirely, a word the soldiers used to keep their hands clean so that they would not get in trouble with their god, a being who himself was made up of three but who allowed men to marry only one.

The other half-sister is captured and sold to the British colonists. She is enchained and put in a dungeon of shit and blood not far from where the other one lives a comfortable if lonely life. One gives birth to a half-caste boy who is eventually educated in Britain; to the other is born a girl who would end up a slave at a Mississippi plantation. One is water, the other is fire.

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.

Note: DNF

July '16
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
506 reviews1,488 followers
November 13, 2016
Homegoing is a journey of history. Black history.
In this mesmerizing, breathtaking saga, a story of 2 tribes is told: the Asante and Fante in the Gold Coast in the 18th century. Two half sisters are born - one to each tribe and unknown to each other. Their lives go in polar directions with the white man determining their existence. One sister is selected to marry a white man who negotiates slaves and lives in prosperity; the other, is stolen and traded to live a life of hardship and heartbreak as a slave.
The narrative takes several paths from these women - the generations that follow their legacy always bringing each home to their roots of who they are and where they came from.

Beautiful prose, vivid descriptions and an emotional connection that was heartbreaking. Various themes throughout. This was an enriching and astounding debut. The only drawback was there were so many POV's that a closer connection to a protagonist was missing. But, upon reflection, I would reread this one in a heartbeat and this one will stay with me. 5*
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
February 15, 2021

I know I said I wouldn't review here anymore but then I READ THAT BOOK and I have things to say so here's me being inconsistent okay? Brace yourself, incoherent thoughts coming in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

I can't help writing about Homegoing for the simple reason that it is BRILLIANT. I don't even know how many times I fell in love and got my heart broken but DAMN IT WAS WORTH IT.

The truth is though, many readers won't read it, because of several excuses :

First off : Homegoing deals with slavery, through an incredible family saga. The truth is, I've always been wary of sentences like, we already know about this so let's move on.


We see how it goes when people *think* they know enough about History.

Proof #1 - French people rewriting history and stating things like, "we fought in 1940 so fuck off refugees!"

I'm sorry WHAAAAT? Nope most didn't. Nope. Stop saying this. STOP. You're merely showing how uneducated you are. Same with the ones who think that the EU was created solely for fighting the United States. Can you just stop? It's starting to get embarrassing, Trump.

Proof #2 - Two days ago I've read a comment on Facebook stating that "Palestinians were just ARABS who should come back to their country of origin."

Oh my God school is GREAT. TRY IT.

Proof # 3 - And then you have this :

(you can read her post here)

The disheartening and offensive papers this poor prof had to read show again that what we can be fairly uneducated on subjects we *think* we know, and in my opinion,
1) it's never too early to start educating people about this and
2) we have to reevaluate what we know fairly often because our self-assessment scale is often broken.

About my first point : of course we're not going to teach slavery in Kindergarten, BUT children of 8 to 10 can start dealing with these subjects. In my class, for example, I teach the broad lines of triangular trades, according to the National curriculum. Yes, we talk about how Bordeaux and Nantes's merchants became rich because of it, and at this point, I don't care if some pupils come from these families. They need to know it even more, because... you don't get to be proud, guys. You don't. I don't care about fake patriotism. It's unhealthy to create some phantasmagoric history of your country. It always is. I think that one of the worst misunderstandings these days is that bullshit that makes people say that you are being unpatriotic if you point your country's flaws and horrors. It's the opposite, guys. I am being patriotic when I talk about the French involvement in slavery. I am, because I am trying to make my country better in the future. By hiding behind fake news and rewritten history, you are not. You are missing the point entirely, because what you're so proud of isn't your country but merely a fake, dangerous and empty shell.

Then there comes the compelling excuse. "I'm not reading that serious book of yours, I'm here for the entertainment, ha!" You know what though? Homegoing is compelling and enthralling, I fell in love twenty times, my heart constantly breaking itself then healing then breaking then - the FEELS. .

So. Let's sum it up.
1. You're gonna fall in love and ship the fuck out of some of them and care and she manages to do that in 20 pages EVERY FUCKING TIME. Brilliant.
2. You're gonna be captivated and forget everything that is not these characters.
3. The FEELS. Prepare your heart because WOW OKAY? I felt so offended and furious and despaired and FULL.
4. You'll be a little further from an ignorant jerk. IN OUR WORLD THAT COUNTS.
5. It's an ownvoice novel.
6. The writing is perfect did I say that????

Tell me now why you shouldn't read this book.

Fucking tell me.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,005 followers
March 10, 2017
3.5 stars

Without doubt Yaa Gyasi can write, it was the format that failed to enamour me. Each time one of the new characters became more to me than a snapshot of misery, I was wrenched from their story in to the mind of another. I realise that my dissatisfaction may be somewhat due to preference; I can't bear to be tantalised by the possibility of a deeper understanding and then left wondering, with only snippets of greater depth added within the framework of later lives. I thought the stories would be more connected, each person more than just names to the next generation. Of course, each individual had their own spiel, a tick box reflection of all the major themes within the history of how African people were transported to America or the issues faced in Ghana. Yet by the fourth change, I had lost my connection to the voice, after that it was no more than a list of woe. For me, it would have been so much more powerful to spend time with those first tale tellers. I wanted to know more about how Effia felt being married to a white man involved in the slave trade, or how Quey dealt with his relationship with Cudjo and how it affected his life, or Cudjo's, or others within the village. What about his time in England? Or his marriage to the Asante King's daughter? That would be some story. This is my own snapshot, of course, but it shows how I was left wanting again and again. Too many questions, too much of 'what? that's it???' for me to feel the power of the story, or of the emotion it was supposed to convey.

My thanks to Penguin/Viking, and Netgalley for the chance to read this review copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Lauren Cecile.
Author 4 books326 followers
June 8, 2017
Great, well-researched book spanning generations and brilliantly showing how a people's past influences their futures.
This was the first time I read anything that illustrated so vividly how Africans were complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. (I believe that's part of the reason that the mainstream critics love it.)
I enjoyed the scenes in Africa even more than the scenes in America although the chapters about how the Alabama penal system used wrongfully convicted convicts to work in the coal mines were especially compelling.
I wish the author had varied the names of the characters a little more because the cast was already large and the names were so similar that it was difficult to keep up with them. Also as soon as I became emotionally invested in one character, the chapter changed and another character became the focus.
It was mildly reminiscent of Twelve Tribes of Hattie except that there was continuity between characters, eras and geographic migrations.
After reading this book, there were so many things I wanted to Google about colonialism, post-Civil War slave labor, etc.
The last ten percent of the book was a little pedestrian and the ending a little contrived, but I still appreciated the author's effort to make everything come full circle.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,176 reviews98.9k followers
February 9, 2017
Talk about ending my reading year with a bang; Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi blew me, and my expectations, away. It was everything I could ever ask for in a book, and the stories will stick with me for the rest of my life.

“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”

This is, hands down, the best family saga I've ever read, and this is only Yaa Gyasi's debut novel! In three-hundred pages, Yaa Gyasi shows us seven generations in fourteen different points of view; each of which will leave you haunted, and start important discussions about the world we live in today.

This book leaves a powerful message about immigration and our views on it in today's world. For this alone, it should be required reading. 2017 is going to be a very important year; we all need to educate ourselves not only about current events, but also events of our past. America is a melting pot, and it is a beautiful thing that we shouldn't be ashamed of. We need to stop segregating, and begin embracing.

This book even touches on the broken cycle that is the war on drugs, and police brutality. Yes, slavery was abolished in America in 1865, but that truly only abolished it on paper. Instead, whites incarcerated blacks for looking the wrong way, and forced them to do their punishment/sentences with more "legal" manual labor. This book heavily talks about the coal mining era and how terrible our journey was to make America "great". Seriously, if you read this book and still say "All Lives Matter" I will personally punch you in the throat.

“Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”

There is also a strong underlying emphasis on nature vs. nurture, which readers won't be able to ignore. Seeing traits getting passed down and seeing the similar mistakes each side on this family tree is so interesting.

The biggest of all these important messages is probably about the main theme that is the slave trade. How people think that even in 2016 it is still okay to own people is astonishing. How slavery impacts every generation, and pretending that it never happened doesn't help us grow or become better. Slavery, and the inexplicable horrors and devastation it creates, has to be talked about, and taught more accurately about. We have to learn from the past to create a better and equal future, where people aren't forced into the roles they are given.

“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”

I loved all the characters and all their impactful points of view, but I couldn't help but love Ness a little more than the rest. In only twenty pages, she will stay in my mind and heart forever. She was so strong, so brave, and so very heartbreaking. I would be so incredibly proud to have someone like her in my family tree.

Honestly, I wish every white American could read this, and see these generations and the struggles they did not ask for, but were forced upon them, and learn. This would open the eyes of so many people, if only they would start their journey to battle the racism and the hate that is still so prevalent today. I know I sound like a broken record, but this book is so important.

Homegoing is a story unlike any other I've ever read; as stated above, we follow the seven generations of two half-sisters who never even got the chance to know one another. Both of their lives start in what will eventually be Ghana, a country on the West Coast of Africa. And even though they are born in a very close proximity to each other, they are from different tribes.

One is married to a British man of great importance and they live together in a communal castle that is a hub for slave trade. While one of the sisters gets acquainted with her new life away from her tribe, the sister she never knew is getting prepared in that same castle, but to be sold out of the insufferable dungeons below.

From there we get to see the different threads that originated from these two star-crossed sisters. And even though you only get to spend about twenty pages with each family member, you can't help but love them all. This book is so intelligent, and so well plotted. Yaa Gyasi deserves every dollar she received for this book before it was published, and this book deserves every ounce of hype it receives, because it is so important and impactful.

I think it needs to be said, that I think the best way to read this book is to read it two chapters at a time. This makes it so that you will read roughly the same time period of the two different family trees of the half-sisters. Sometimes, some of the old characters show up with pretty important cameos in their descendant's points of view, and each time it felt like Christmas morning. I also became addicted to looking at the family tree every new point of view. I couldn't help it, this story was so immersing and I was so addicted.

“The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”

Please give the book a shot. It is worth all the hype and will change your life. I will forever cherish this book and its message, while gifting it to all my loved ones. If I could only recommend one book in 2016 it would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is truly nothing short of a masterpiece.

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Profile Image for Barbara**catching up!.
1,398 reviews806 followers
April 6, 2022
Thank you, GR friend Tania, for your enthusiastic review of the “Homegoing” audio. I passed on reading this novel many times, for whatever reason (not in the mood; other novels capturing my attention). The audio, narrated by Dominic Hoffman, is an engaging saga of the lineage of two women, half-sisters, who never knew each other.

Each chapter is like a vignette, a story of one the women’s descendants. The story begins in 18th century Ghana. A family tree is provided in the audio, and it is helpful to see how each of the stories are connected to which woman.

What author Yaa Gyasi does beautifully is show, through her stories, how systemic racism began centuries before now. She shows the difficulties, trials, and tribulations that each character endures. Most of the stories are tragic, yet they aren’t distractingly tragic. Gyasi writes of the human struggle, specifically of those who came from the slave trade of Ghana. Gyasi shows how each generation holds baggage that affects the next generation and so on. Hardship continues after slavery, after the Jim Crowe era. All of the characters/descendants have their own particular struggles, most crushing.

This saga is 13 hours long, and it’s easy to follow, given the family tree provided. I did consult the family tree often, especially when a new character is introduced in chapter form. She cleverly ties it together in the end. Although I’m late on the bandwagon, I’m very pleased I finally got on!
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