Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“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 book though. Where to start. What a debut. What a wonderful debut. I almost can’t believe it is a debut. An epic novel, no doubt you’ve heard but I’ll tell you about it anyway. It follows the journey of two sisters: Effia and Esi and follows through their generations. One marries a slave trader’s wife, the other becomes a slave. And each chapter is focused on an offspring from either side and so it goes. It’s beautiful and if it sounds confusing it’s not. There’s a helpful family tree in the beginning and which is not as spoiler-y as one would expect.

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

Homegoing begins in the Gold Coast of Africa and by the end reaches the jazz bars in Harlem via route of cotton plantations in the South. It is the story of seven generations, with interlinking vignette style chapters which allow it to read like a novel, and smoothly at that.

“Sleep came for her like waves. First licking her curling toes, her swollen feet, her aching ankles. By the time it hit her mouth, nose, eyes, she was no longer afraid of it.”

Gyasi’s voice is kind of phenomenal. Her sentences are both lyrical and important. A sense of anger pervades the book but it’s a quiet sort of rage; a searing rage that never fades. Her portraits are intimate and touching and every time I finished a chapter I swore the next one couldn’t possibly be more heartbreaking.

I’m not sure what more I can say. This is an epic yet intimate history of a family, of a nation, of freedom. It is remarkable and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s a novel filled with such warmth and is definitely worth the hype.

“As she sang, she saw the notes float out of her mouth like little butterflies, carrying some of her sadness away, and she knew, finally, that she would survive it.”

4.5/5 stars for me.

Have you read this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.


For now,

do svidaniya friends and feathered ones,