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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


by Yaa Gyasi

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15. Homegoing (Audio) by Yaa Gyasi
reader: Dominic Hoffman
published: 2016
format: Overdrive digital audio, 13:11 (~360 pages equivalent)
acquired: Library
listened: Mar 29 - Apr 10
rating: 4

Audio enthusiasm waning, this novel was a nice fix. Gyasi was born in Ghana, came to the United States at ten and mainly grew up in Alabama. She makes good use of both cultures and their histories. Homegoing begins in the late 1700's in Africa where two girls who will never meet, half-sisters from the same mother, end up on different sides of the slave trade. One marries a high level British official working in the Cape Coast Castle (now a World Heritage Site - link here, one of about 40 slave castles along the African coast). The other is captured and held in the same castle and later shipped to America. Gyasi then traces their lineage from generation to generation up to the present, kind of like a James Michener novel. Each generation on each continent gets a short story typically focused on one individual.

A first novel, this is OK writing on an really interesting, to me, historical trajectory. The African sections, on the Ashanti and Fante cultures in Ghana, were fascinating, and all new to me (and the reader does a convincing job with accents). The Ashanti tribe captured surrounding people, and the Fante tribes traded the captives to Portuguese and British slave traders. Later, as the slave trade faded, a protracted and rather bloody war, one that I never fully understood within the novel, took place between the British and Ashanti. On the American side the tragic stories cover well-trod ground and the success of each story was often dependent on setting, character or some thoughtful clever aspect. These expose Gyasi's ability a bit, and I thought some stories worked better than others.

So some complaints, but overall an entertaining novel, especially for those like me who are clueless about Africa and its history.
  dchaikin | Apr 15, 2017 |
  eslee | Apr 4, 2017 |
Uncomfortable to read, distressing, sad, brilliant. ( )
  sraelling | Apr 1, 2017 |
This story follows members of the same family line through several generations, taking us from the slave days of the Gold Coast to the present-day United States. I got hooked on the writing style right away and fell in love with the initial characters easily, but quickly discovered that I wasn't going to learn much about any of them beyond their main chapter, as the story just kept progressing forward in time. About halfway through, it became more of a slog to keep repeating that same pattern of meeting a new, younger character, adding a few details about how he or she was related to the previous generation, and then leaping forward again. The story tied together well in the end in a way that was somewhat predictable, but also thematically more nuanced than I had expected. This would be a rare instance when I wish a book could have been a thousand pages longer so that I could have spent more time with each of the people in it. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Mar 31, 2017 |
I was enthralled with Homegoing! Two sisters who never meet have separate paths in life -- one stays in Africa and one gets sold into slavery in America. Yaa Gyasi shows in stunning fullness the lineage of each of these women. I'm amazed that Yaa Gyasi could create such a full character, with each of their twenty short pages but then introduce the next line of that generation that I couldn't wait to read about. EACH ONE of these characters could have had their own novel -- but I also wasn't annoyed at all when they only had twenty pages. I can remember each one of them. The book showcases that no matter what scenarios an African American is in (even in Africa), it is almost always difficult and will continue to be, sadly (another book also did this recently - Colson Whitehead's 'Underground Railroad'). I also liked that she didn't avoid the perspective that sometimes tribes were complicit in slavery, making it easier for slave traders. Not many novels about slavery include this that I have noticed, except for the wonderful 'Someone Knows My Name' by Lawrence Hill. Each character fills your heart -- and there are many of them! I will keep an eye out for Yaa Gyasi's next book. ( )
  booklove2 | Mar 25, 2017 |
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The family is like the forest:if you are outside it is dense: if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position. - AKAN PROVERB
For my parents and for my brothers
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The night Effia Otcher was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father's compound.
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amazon ca :A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.
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