Julie's Reviews > Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
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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?

This question, posed by a 20th century character near the end of Homegoing encompasses the novel's central theme: telling the stories history forgets, misses, or ignores entirely. In the case of Yaa Gyasi's stunning debut, the lost story is the active complicity of West Africa in the slave trade.

Homegoing travels through three centuries and two continents by way of the bloodlines of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi. As the story opens in what is now Ghana, Effia is sold as a bride by her father to a British slavetrader. Her half-sister, Esi, whom she's never met, is being held captive not far away, awaiting transport to the New World as a slave.

And so these two branches split from the same tree become an episodic novel in which each chapter moves between West Africa and America, following seven generations of these two young women and the brutal legacy of slavery both continents allowed to flourish.

The marvel of this novel is how we become so quickly and solidly attached to the protagonist of each chapter, even though we don't remain in his or her life for long. And how agile Gyasi is in portraying each generation and location, despite dramatic shifts of culture and geography. The chapters set in West Africa are the most revelatory. I've read extensively of the evil and agony of pre-and post-antebellum racism and violence in the United States, as well as the disease of Jim Crow that followed emancipation. But to see the entangled roots of slave history in West Africa, revealed with such vivid storytelling, is astonishing.

Relationships, not history lessons, are at the heart of Yaa Gyasi's tale. Each generation is propelled forward by the love of those left behind, the entangled hearts and bodies that make up the passionate soul of this novel. I will admit to becoming overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters and the rapid changes of place and time, all of which diluted some of the novel's power. But in the end, I was moved and troubled, heartened and breathless. This is an extraordinary debut.
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Reading Progress

December 18, 2016 – Shelved
December 18, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
February 5, 2017 – Started Reading
February 8, 2017 –
page 130
42.62% "Tremendous. I'm loving this."
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: africa-theme-setting
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: american-south
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: best-of-2017
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: read-2017
February 10, 2017 – Shelved as: usa-historical
February 10, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Susu (new) - added it

Susu Looking forward to your review!

message 2: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Richards Great review Julie. Looking forward to reading this.

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