A book to be read and reread. A remarkable tale of the slave trade from the perspective of the European slavers as well as the many tribes involved in the trade as both victims and perpetrators. The book moves through centuries and extended families on two continents and eight generations. Though the stories of individuals we are offered the epic tale of forced migration to America, the horror of slavery, the chaos following the Civil War and the movement northward for jobs and independence. At the same time we are following the generations through the development of Ghana from a tribal, warring, slave trading nation. Each chapter is a nugget of the broader story and an intimate peak into the lives of one or more of the participants. So much is beautifully captured in a mere 300 pages.
Homegoing is a multigenerational epic that walks the fine line between hope, anger, and despair as the tales of Esi and Effia’s descendants unspool. Each chapter is a slice of life set against the background of a particular historical era, be it the Great Migration or the War of the Golden Stool. The full effect of the novel is such that in the end, the reader knows more about Marcus and Marjorie’s families than they do, the fall out of slavery and colonialism depriving them of their history and culture. The book is a potent reminder that the history is always there, just beneath the surface, and that the story has always been waiting to be told, though the voice of the victors has long drowned it out.
You can find my full view at Required Reading: https://shayshortt.com/2017/10/05/homegoing/
This book was incredible. I loved the concept and the execution. It felt very black feminist which is fantastic, too. Just amazing and I recommend this to everyone.
The Whistler Public Library and Armchair Books Community Book Club read "Homegoing" in June 2017. While this novel isn't an "easy" read in terms of subject matter, it's an absolute page-turner thanks to the superb storytelling. We all found the family tree at the front of the book very helpful when keeping track of the characters, so perhaps the audio/eBook version would be challenging. The group favourite storyline was Kojo and Anna's love story, even though it was no less harrowing than the other chapters. Our chief complaint was that we all wanted MORE! We would've happily read this book if it were twice as long, spending even more time with each of the fascinating characters.
We particularly enjoyed discussing:
- The role of race in this story - exemplified by Willie and Robert's story - and the complex role that the Asante and Fante played in the slave trade.
- The ending (no spoilers!). Does this happy/satisfying conclusion provide levity for an otherwise brutal story, or was it too "convenient" to be believable?
Well written and captivating storytelling. You can definitely see the generational trauma of slavery/race being passed on.
The personal stories of seven generations of a family, two branches, one each from two half-sisters who never knew of each other in 18th century Ghana. One was married to a British slaver, the other captured and sold by him. One set of stories remains in Africa, the other travels to America. Each of the 14 characters gets a chapter. Each story personifies and personalizes the experience of a time and place, most of them more unhappy than not, damaged by circumstances and people beyond their control. It's an amazing history lesson, made all the more effective by the fact that it's not teaching or preaching, simply telling simple--and moving and engaging--stories.
One passage that stands out as more explicative than the majority, yet that gives a sense of the book's scope--even as it only addresses the final four generations of one branch of the family:
"A month passed, and it was time again for Marcus to return to his research. He had been avoiding it because it wasn't going well.
"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, too, 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. . . .
"It was one thing to research something, another thing entirely to have lived it. To have felt it. How could he explain to Marjorie that what he wanted to capture with his project was the feeling of time, of having been a part of something that stretched so far back, was so impossibly large, that it was easy to forget that she, and he, and everyone else, existed in it--not apart from it, but inside of it.
"How could he explain to Marjorie that he wasn't supposed to be here? Alive. Free. That the fact that he had been born, that he wasn't in a jail cell somewhere, was not by dint of his pulling himself up by the bootstraps, not by hard work or belief in the American Dream, but by mere chance. He had only heard tell of his great-grandpa H from Ma Willie, but those stories were enough to make him weep and to fill him with pride. Two-Shovel H they had called him. But what had they called his father or his father before him? What of the mothers? They had been products of their time, and walking in Birmingham now, Marcus was an accumulation of these times. That was the point."
A very moving and compelling read - especially if you're interested in this particular history of Africa and slavery. The story concerns two divergent limbs of a family tree; and each chapter tells us the story of the descendant branches of the tree. In a way it's a collection of connected short stories - once you've finished a chapter you never return to that particular character. The subject matter is at times difficult - but important, and accurate. This is the kind of book I finished over a long weekend - I highly recommend it to others!
This is an ambitious, heavy-hitting read. There is not a lot of happiness, although it tells stories that need to be known. I didn't like it as much as Roots, as I found the sudden leap to a new time and character every chapter a bit jarring as a reader.
"History is storytelling... 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?"
There are so many wonderful things I could say about this book, but I'll stick to just a couple. First, the rich history in it was amazing. So many topics were covered: the slave trade, slavery in America, the Civil War (while not actually described, it serves as the turning point between parts one and two), the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and more. How each of these subjects were presented brings me to the other thing I loved about this book: the set up of the story. It starts with two half sisters, who do not know each other, and each chapter thereafter introduces the next generation in each family line and the ordeals they experience. Starting on the Gold Coast in Africa, and concluding in the present-day, this stunning family saga cannot be missed.
Interesting concept and solid writing but I found the reading experience a bit disjointed. I would have loved to see this book as a collection of connected short stories. The author has created some great characters in this book and I would have loved to see them more fully developed.
I enjoyed reading this book but I felt that there were way too many characters. I had to keep referencing the family tree. I will say that it isn’t a read in a few sittings. It took me some time to get through this book .
In HOMEGOING during a chapter set in the mid-20th century, Yaa, a teacher in Ghana writes “History is Storytelling” on the board in his classroom. This is the theme of author Yaa Gyasi’s monumental work, an ambitious family saga, which has been hailed in some circles as this generation’s ROOTS. Gyasi takes the African oral history tradition to new levels by giving voice to those suppressed, not those with power (see Quotes) beginning with 2 half sisters separated at birth, and follows their descendants across 7 generations (14 characters), 2 continents, and 200+ years. That she does so, and so effectively and eloquently in an economical 300 pages, is stunning! HOMEGOING isn't an easy read emotionally, and can be brutal in its depictions of what happens to its characters, BUT IT IS a powerful and essential read with the potential to open minds and spark further discussion.
Commendable effort in following past into the future and difficulties encountered. Book very compelling initially but became more difficult to follow the identities of the descendants as the book progressed. In the end things come together. I liked the connection felt by/to ancestors and their interest in keeping the stories alive.It was interesting to learn how the British and the different African tribes interacted often/mostly against one another. A rather sad history for all involved. The individual stories make it an important retelling. Would be an excellent book for a discussion group.
This novel contains the self-contained stories of six generations of descendants of two half-sisters born in the mid 18th century on the Gold Coast. It is set in Africa and the US. Although the early stories have a modern sensibility, the book is an interesting attempt to imagine a history for ordinary people. It was an enjoyable read.
A fascinating read that follows the lives of two half sisters Effia and Esi and their descendants beginning with the start of the slave trade in Africa until modern time. Despite the short time you have with each character, the reader gets a sense of the family, their joys and struggles throughout time, and it feels like you understand and connect with the family by the end of the novel. A gritty, detailed story about the long-standing effects of the colonization of Africa and the slave trade.
Readers who enjoyed Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad, and those following the #blacklivesmattermovement will enjoy this novel.
It traces one family across hundreds of years of history...starts in slavery times and end in our era.......brilliant...
This is an extraordinarily ambitious debut, tracing the descendants of two half-sisters in Ghana, from the 1700s until the 21st century, but I think Gyasi pulls it off with impressive skill. Her decision to dedicate only a single chapter to each character gives every moment spent with them extra weight, and she manages to create a bond between reader and character that transcends the small number of pages spent with each one. This is, at its heart, a book about the ways in which black people have spent hundreds of years struggling to exercise any control over their own fate, and watching her characters alternately succeed and fail in that struggle is deeply moving. The conclusion is a bit too coincidental and tidy for my liking, but that's a minor quibble about what was, overall, a really extraordinary book.
The writing style for this book took me a bit to get into, but once I did I was completely sucked in. I loved the structure of this story, the way in which each character was woven into someone else's story. I was sad whenever I left a character (such as Esi, Ness and H), but I loved seeing how their kins lives would later be changed. Truly a beautiful novel and totally recommended.
This is probably the best book I read this year. Yaa Gyasi somehow manages to make me feel as though I've known and loved each of the characters for years in the span of a chapter, as she tells the story of each generation in turn.
Beautifully written. Complicated, wonderful, flawed, yet strong characters. The effective use of alternating points of view for every chapter (and a extremely helpful family tree at the beginning of the book). An important and timely topic. These things all add up to one of the best books that I have read so far this year. I absolutely loved it!
An amazing read that starts in Africans in the 18th century and moves one generation forward every chapter until the present day it comes full circle.
As many have discovered before me, Yaa Gyasi's "Homegoing" is so masterfully written that it's very hard to believe that this is a debut novel. It begins in the late 1800's, in Ghana, Africa, with two half-sisters living very different lives. One sister marries an English soldier, and one is sold into slavery by her family. So follows their different paths throughout life, with different consequences. Their common thread, though, is their history and identity.
"Novel" is not quite the right word, here, as each chapter follows a new descendant of one of the sisters. The book moves through history, and we see how racism has changed and evolved, but always existed.
There have been many books written with these themes, but this one is so beautiful and multi-faceted. Part of the power, for me, was that there were so many characters whose lives were affected. There were so many stories about people just trying to live, to break free, and the timeline throughout shows how constant a problem racism is. This is a beautiful, powerful book.