Roxane's Reviews > Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
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really liked it

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.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
April 23, 2016 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-50 of 88 (88 new)

message 1: by Wesley (new) - added it

Wesley Bishop Sounds good. Will definitely check it out.

message 2: by Gayle (new)

Gayle Fleming Loved your review. Next on my reading list.

BookOfCinz Loved Loved your review. Totally agree with you about the structure and the almost too neat of an ending.

Mzkiella I enjoyed the book and my rating is minus one star because of the disjointed structure, the loss of character focus as the book progressed and the recipe card ending.

B. P. Rinehart The reason why I was so critical of the second-half of the book is because of how perfect the first-half was: you really start to feel the drop in quality.

Sarita Sums up my feelings entirely.

message 7: by Kesha (new)

Kesha Joyner-Slusher I'm awaiting mine....this book..seems as tho ..its going to be an exceptional mental movie. Can not wait

Alessandra Gleason Hap no kids today school

Jerome "Seriously, white men are the devil." Really?

Tikaa Good

Tracy Lind Ummm, did you miss the part where Africans enslaved and brutalized other Africans, and in fact continued to uphold slavery after white men fought to outlaw it? White men are the devil is what you got out of this book? What I got is that the devil can arise in any human being, white or black , and has done so since the beginning of time.

Marianne K I applaud you Tracy Lind. Your comment is spot on.

message 13: by Kela (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kela Small Africans wouldn't have anyone to sell other slaves to if not for white men. We could do bad all by ourselves.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

"I didn't want this to be a novel that kind of ascribed blame on any one party. I wanted it to kind of show the complexity of the situation... People were exploiting other people. Ghanaians were exploiting other people, but they were also at the same time being exploited. I think this is a novel where there--and a situation where there are no villains, there are no heroes, It's kind of this nuanced representation of how people come to evil circumstances and how they behave in those circumstances. The slave trade happened to people like us. It didn't happen to some nameless, faceless mass. It happened to people who had hopes and dreams and fears and all of those things that we have. So when you think, how could someone do something like this, you're also thinking about yourself." --Yaa Gyasi

Lauren Yes, Seriously, white men are the devil. Until we accept that, we cannot change. If you think "that doesn't apply to me" ask yourself what have you done to counteract the injustice. You don't have to be racist to be guilty of not stopping racism.

Jerome What have I done to counteract racism. I have persistently gone out of my way to embrace others and judge their actions, not their looks. Now if you want to call a whole group of people evil regardless, you are silly.

Shellee Stories Shellee I think the lack of connection we feel to the characters towards the end of the book is meaningful and purposeful. With a breakdown of the family and identity (as we saw in this novel) comes a breakdown in connectedness. We don't feel connected to the characters because they don't feel connected to theirselves. We stopped feeling connected to the characters because they lost the richness of culture and identity that they had in the beginning of the novel. We see this in modern day America. Many people discuss the breakdown of the African American family as well as a breakdown in feeling connected to one another..I think the author...I know the author did a wonderful job of portraying that.

message 18: by Neil Cahill (new)

Neil Cahill Would I be allowed to get a Surface laptop, and a QC35 Wireless pair of headphones?

message 19: by Neil Cahill (new)

Neil Cahill A racist read not without a whiff of controversy, if I could include a judgement, or if it barks, tame it.

message 20: by Neil Cahill (new)

Neil Cahill Connected means to me genuinely having an alter ego, another self.

message 21: by Brian (new) - added it

Brian Hickey Yes indeed. White men are the devil and often depict what is wrong with the world, past, present and potentially the future..

This is a brilliant review Roxane, one of a few that pushed me towards buying this novel. I particularly appreciate how you reviewed Homegoing and how the story's chapters 'are designed as vignettes' to highlight historical moments and 'sociopolitical ideas', making it just as relevant today as it was back in the 18th century in Ghana. Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me would pair well with this book and because of America's current racial climate, I'm happy that these two magnificent pieces of work appear right on time..

Again, well done Roxane. I feel fortunate to have stumbled across your review.

Stuart Powerful-greater as a sum of all its parts than any part in particular-some individual parts especially. This is a book definitely worth more than one read. It has sooooo much to say about power in its myriad incarnations including those of class, race, and gender;identity, place, time; the larger contemporary and historical forces that sweep people up as they move into their lives like both subtle breezes and often as calamitous, cataclysmic tornadoes! It raises the issue of choice but illuminates how some choices take more imagination and courage than others. A powerful and important piece of literary fiction.

message 23: by Michael (new) - added it

Michael white men are the devil? Seriously? In a book review? I would never deny white or male privilege, but this is exactly the sort of thing that turns off white men to embracing and uncovering their privilege.

message 24: by Nico (new) - added it

Nico No, Michael—the thing that turns white men from "embracing and uncovering their privilege" is the fact that that privilege is *benefitting* them from every perceivable angle.

If they can't handle someone using much milder language to express frustration or hurt or anger about oppression intentionally created and perpetuated by white men (and white people) historically AND still today, than many white people use TOWARDS those whose oppression they sustain (see: racial slurs, consistent backlash towards so-called "PC" language, also known as, "I'm mad I occasionally get called out for racist or otherwise oppressive language/stories/ideology"), then they were never ready to work on their privilege at this point in time.

Sorry that people are sometimes upset about the absolute atrocities we as white people have inflicted on this planet that affect every facet of society. We need to grow a thicker skin and not demand that people of color coddle us and our sad white feelings.

message 25: by Devon (new) - added it

Devon Munn White men are the devil?, hmm, what's that, I'm smelling some racism here

message 26: by Sara (new)

Sara L. I read this book and was deeply touched by it. I understand Black anger and I'm deeply appalled at what happened to them here and what continues to happen to them now, but just as I see people who are black as individuals. The ones I know are strong people who run city departments, represent us in government, are incredibly talented performers or are just regular human beings like I am going about our lives going to school, working, having families and living. The doctor who delivered our second child was a Black man. My daughter married a man who is half Black and half Phillipino. So what? I also know those who struggle financially, who have problems with drugs and probably the law. I agree that throughout history those with power have used it ruthlessly, be they white, black or of other races, but I refuse to be branded negatively because of the color of my skin. That is also a form of racism and is not only a non-starter in building trust and relationships, but is alienating the very people who believe they can help make a difference to make our country less racist.

ericamoraleslopez Have fun with the book

 Jennifer  Owens Thanks Dee for the video above.

Sentimental Surrealist White man here, fan of both you and the book, not at all bothered by the "white man are the devil" comment. Rock on Roxane Gay

message 30: by Colleen (new) - added it

Colleen Herst I want to like your comment, Sentimental Surrealist. These types of books bring out strong feelings.

Jerome JennRene wrote: "Thanks Dee for the video above."

How are you not bothered by any such bigoted comment? "White men are the devil" is as bad an assertion as "jews are the devil".

message 32: by Mo (new)

Mo yes indeed, white men *are* the devil.
viz: the state of the world.

Charline I felt the same about the ending...still a great book though!

Jerome Mo wrote: "yes indeed, white men *are* the devil.
viz: the state of the world."
Congrats! you are now as stupid as racists themselves, by putting a whole group of people under the category "evil" in one stroke.

message 35: by Mo (new)

Mo point taken, jerome. i was lazy when i meant to make a shorthand misanthropic remark. so let me say what i really meant to say:

the human animal is the most dangerous and virulent on the planet. the caucasian strain of the species is particularly aggressive. and the male more so than the female.

that's better.

Sara'la @Tracy Lind Thank you for that. I was surprised and disgusted how so many people fell for the "white devil" bit and no one caught on that perhaps humans in general can be evil.

Cristal Spot on review. Amazing book. Structure made it both interesting and challenging. Read it once, then had to go back and re-read/skim again to make sure I had all of the connections correct. Family tree was also very helpful.

message 38: by Joan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joan Love the book, hate that people are using it as a platform to argue about which race is the worst. Show me a race that has not done evil things. Anyway... the book is wonderful. Please stop the "us vs. them" stuff. The author herself holds a number of people accountable, white and black.

message 39: by Mollie (new) - added it

Mollie Thank you- taking this OFF my want to read list. The author must be so upset with you 😕

message 40: by so (new)

so mmk

Barb Cherem You say "white Men", but I'd add "elite" and get social class in there as it's power-holding folks that are the most abusive with that power.
Great book!

message 42: by Mindy (new)

Mindy Connelly White men are the devil? What about the black men that kidnapped and sold each other? I loved the way she brought out the fact that everyone is to blame. Rage is pointless. Who are you going to be mad at?

message 43: by Amanda (new)

Amanda D. E. Is everyone honestly doing the whole "NOT ALL WHITE MEN" bit?! Lord

message 44: by Hiyoowi (new)

Hiyoowi All white men are the devil? That's a disgusting position to hold. How there are people just accepting that comment is baffling.

That being said, the rest of the review was helpful.

message 45: by Janice (new)

Janice I would say greed is the devil.

Donna Valentine Excellent book but seriously Roxane “The White Man Is The Devil??” Maybe if you weren’t such a racist this world would be a better place. There’s no more room in this world for hate.

Lauren Miller Offense is a choice. Therefore, I chose to not be upset towards comments such as “white men are the devil”. Especially because I can see where she is coming from after reading this novel. It does make you feel enraged at what has happened throughout American history, no matter your own color. However, I do agree that this novel did show that people are not strictly evil or good natured— but rather a mixture of both alignments. It shows the stress, political systems, social systems and pressure that went behind people choices and I enjoyed the perspectives. Because, at least for me, it did make the characters feel more realistic.

I enjoyed it because it is a perspective I do not read often and it opened my eyes to many things. I hope to read many more novels like it. As I truly enjoyed learning from it. :) thank you for your honest review Roxane.

Joanna Our knee jerk reaction to reading such raw and organic accounts is yes White Man is disgusting ‘the devil’ as you say. But then I think about all the white people involved in the Underground Railroad...all the white people
Who risked or lost their lives helping black slaves they never even met before, and I remember, it’s not a matter of colour, it’s those sick individuals who have power, influence and money and wield it in destructive ways. And they pathetic idiots that follow them.

Melissa I'm so glad you reviewed this. Because I read Bad Feminist so recently, I couldn't help but wonder as I read Homegoing what you'd think of it!

SpookySoto "white men are the devil" uff, so the blacks that traded with the whites were saints?

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