History and Familial Lineage Take Center Stage in Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing begins in eighteenth-century Ghana and spans several centuries (eight generations!) to follow the generational line of Maame, an Asante woman.
Maame has two daughters.
She gives birth to Effia while she is enslaved by the Fante and gives birth to Esi after she escapes to Asanteland.
Effia marries an English slave trader while Esi is sold into slavery. These half-sisters never meet, but their stories are deeply connected.
Homegoing captures Effia and Esi’s individual paths and that of their descendants.
The history of Black and African people in the U.S. is often told through the perspective of White conquerors. These narratives are generally devoid of individual truths and collective human experiences. Yaa Gyasi weaves together personal and historical events to give voice and power to all of her characters.
Each chapter centers around key historical periods, including the transatlantic slave trade, post-Civil War slavery (the coal mines), the Jim Crow era, Harlem Jazz Renaissance, the crack epidemic, present-day racism in the U.S., and the immigration of Africans to the U.S.
Homegoing also explores a lesser known fact: slavery had (and continues to have) grotesque effects on Africans who remained in Africa.
The power of history and familial lineage is resounding in Homegoing.
History is Storytelling.
Yaw, one of Effia’s descendants, proclaims this truth during a lesson with his students. Indeed, who gets to tell the story matters. To tell a complete story, all accounts must be recounted.
Homegoing provides a powerful way to learn about and claim experiences that were once stripped of truth, existence, and completeness.
Thank you Yaa for taking on the herculean task of unraveling a complex history.