Yaa Gyasi – Homegoing



Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is an eye opener. Not only does it chronicle the history of slavery, from Ghana to the U.S. but she throws in other themes such as sexuality, mixed race relations and the culture clashes between the African native and an African American, and it pulled of cleverly. Homegoing is a dazzling novel.

The book starts off with two women, Effia and Esi both from the same mother but separated at birth. Effia marries the British governor at the time and the Esi is captured  spends some time as a slave and is shipped to the U.S.

The clever thing is that each chapter focuses on a child from each generation and alternates between the bloodlines. As an example. The first chapter is about Effia’s life, the second is about Esi’s life, then the third chapter is about Effia’s child, while the fourth chapter is about Esi’s child. Through this literary technique, the reader is experiencing history along with the characters, which basically from the 1700’s to the year 2000.

The Effia descendants remain in Africa, however due to the fact that Effia married a white person, the mixed race theme remains prominent in the novel. Eventually the last of her line actually does go to the U.S.

The Esi line documents how people were captured in Africa and sold as slaves. Through Esi’s descendants we readers witness cruelty, exploitation and the blatant racism that was common in the U.S. at the time.

Eventually both descendants do meet and the circle starts looping again.

Homegoing is a deceptively complex novel. Themes weave in and out of the narrative like a quilt, in fact the dust jacket of my edition looks like it is made from the same material as a straw basket so the weaving pattern sticks out. This is not an easy book to describe due to it’s richness. There’s also African mythology, black magic and chants and spells mixed with trade unionism, the U.S. miners strike and the migration of African Americans into Harlem NY. There’s a lot going on but Gyasi makes it seem simple and, for me, is the mark of an excellent novel.

Homegoing, for , me is a great companion piece to Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s masterpiece Americanah as it also describes the culture clashes of Africans all over the world both deal with important topics and have a historical basis but Gyasi manages to trace the roots while Adiche focuses on the present day.