By Yaa Gyasi
A slavery story, or so much more. I originally dove into Homegoing imagining a heartbreaking story about Ghana, but in reality this story was about my own country, and it’s African roots.
It’s hard to wrap my head around a history that I personally haven’t experienced in my everyday life. Why and how the stain of the slave trade is still present in an evolved form in the US today.
Homegoing begins with a pair of sisters in Ghana during British colonialism and the beginning of the slave trade. It follows the stories of each of their descendants through the years up until present day. It follows them from tribal Ghana, through the Atlantic crossing, slavery in the southern American states, and into institutionalized racism after slavery is abolished. It parallels stories in both America and Ghana until the present day, making for a remarkable view of Ghana and the American connection to it.
My personal take? Its two-fold. I had the incredible experience of studying abroad and living in Ghana in 2010. I’ve also lived my whole life as a white person in America.
Firstly – The stories taking place in Ghana opened up an invaluable view of Ghanaian culture that I sure wish I’d had when I lived there (the book was published several years later). Subtleties between ancestral groups and the cultural after-effects of British rule are rampantly present there and may not be well understood by an outsider such as myself. They were woven into the story quite well. This book answered a lot of questions I didn’t know I had about my experience staying in Ghana.
Secondly – As an American I have learned about Black history (a whitewashed version,) and have a general understanding of it. But, I’m white and I’ve never experienced it. Sure, I have also read a lot of fiction with black POV characters and Addy was my favorite American Girl, but those stories were snippets in time.
Homegoing provides a wider, whole-picture view of the struggle of being black in America. The unique story structure, following the families one generation at a time provides crucial linear links between current events (hello, #blacklivesmatter), and slavery. That graceful transition of time between pre-slavery and now is what makes Homegoing truly special.
Homegoing is an exquisitely thoughtful read, both deep and engaging. It should be required reading for any educated American.