Saturday, July 2, 2016

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Some books put in family trees of their characters, which I mostly ignore, but for Homegoing, I referred back to it repeatedly. Not because it was confusing, but because I wanted to keep making sure lineages carried on. Let me explain why.

First let me say that for a debut novel, this was wonderful. This author is going to shine bright so keep an eye on her. Homegoing tells the story of 2 half sisters, Effia and Esi, who know nothing of each other but share the same mother. Maame is at the top of the tree. We start off in 18th-century Ghana and, in each chapter, we follow one person on the family tree. Effia is known as Effia the Beauty in her village. She is married off to an Englishman and lives in a Castle. Esi is kidnapped from her village and sold into slavery. Slaves were kept in the dungeon of the Castle while they waited for ships to take them to America. Effia and Esi are literally separated by a floor. 

As we move through the chapters, we branch out to follow Effia's lineage in Africa and Esi's lineage in America. We end in modern times, 8 generations from where we started. 

This is a heartbreaking, heavy book. When we hear now of black reparations, most people just scoff that slavery ended and the current generation of African Americans are not affected anymore. Reading this novel can change minds. When slaves were freed and black people had to carry "free papers" everywhere they went, when, even with free papers, they were thrown in jail and sentenced to 9 years of hard labor because they didn't cross a street when a white person walked by, when mothers were kidnapped off the street in Baltimore and taken South to be sold into slavery even though she was born free up North....all of these are heartrending to read. 

Each chapter closes the door on the person we are discovering which is why I kept going back to the family tree to see if that person made it out and continued on. We learn bits and pieces in the next chapters through the eyes of the children to see how the parents faired. It's truly an interesting way to introduce everyone to us and to show how slavery affected one family, multiple generations in.

Must read, you guys, you must read.