Talk about ending my reading year with a bang; Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi blew me, and my expectations, away. It was everything I could ever ask for in a book, and the stories will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“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.”
This is, hands down, the best family saga I’ve ever read, and this is only Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel! In three-hundred pages, Yaa Gyasi shows us seven generations in fourteen different points of view; each of which will leave you haunted, and start important discussions about the world we live in today.
This book leaves a powerful message about immigration and our views on it in today’s world. For this alone, it should be required reading. 2017 is going to be a very important year; we all need to educate ourselves not only about current events, but also events of our past. America is a melting pot, and it is a beautiful thing that we shouldn’t be ashamed of. We need to stop segregating, and begin embracing.
This book even touches on the broken cycle that is the war on drugs, and police brutality. Yes, slavery was abolished in America in 1865, but that truly only abolished it on paper. Instead, whites incarcerated blacks for looking the wrong way, and forced them to do their punishment/sentences with more “legal” manual labor. This book heavily talks about the coal mining era and how terrible our journey was to make America “great”. Seriously, if you read this book and still say “All Lives Matter” I will personally punch you in the throat.
“Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”
There is also a strong underlying emphasis on nature vs. nurture, which readers won’t be able to ignore. Seeing traits getting passed down and seeing the similar mistakes each side on this family tree is so interesting.
The biggest of all these important messages is probably about the main theme that is the slave trade. How people think that even in 2016 it is still okay to own people is astonishing. How slavery impacts every generation, and pretending that it never happened doesn’t help us grow or become better. Slavery, and the inexplicable horrors and devastation it creates, has to be talked about, and taught more accurately about. We have to learn from the past to create a better and equal future, where people aren’t forced into the roles they are given.
“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
I loved all the characters and all their impactful points of view, but I couldn’t help but love Ness a little more than the rest. In only twenty pages, she will stay in my mind and heart forever. She was so strong, so brave, and so very heartbreaking. I would be so incredibly proud to have someone like her in my family tree.
Honestly, I wish every white American could read this, and see these generations and the struggles they did not ask for, but were forced upon them, and learn. This would open the eyes of so many people, if only they would start their journey to battle the racism and the hate that is still so prevalent today. I know I sound like a broken record, but this book is so important.
Homegoing is a story unlike any other I’ve ever read; as stated above, we follow the seven generations of two half-sisters who never even got the chance to know one another. Both of their lives start in what will eventually be Ghana, a country on the West Coast of Africa. And even though they are born in a very close proximity to each other, they are from different tribes.
One is married to a British man of great importance and they live together in a communal castle that is a hub for slave trade. While one of the sisters gets acquainted with her new life away from her tribe, the sister she never knew is getting prepared in that same castle, but to be sold out of the insufferable dungeons below.
From there we get to see the different threads that originated from these two star-crossed sisters. And even though you only get to spend about twenty pages with each family member, you can’t help but love them all. This book is so intelligent, and so well plotted. Yaa Gyasi deserves every dollar she received for this book before it was published, and this book deserves every ounce of hype it receives, because it is so important and impactful.
I think it needs to be said, that I think the best way to read this book is to read it two chapters at a time. This makes it so that you will read roughly the same time period of the two different family trees of the half-sisters. Sometimes, some of the old characters show up with pretty important cameos in their descendant’s points of view, and each time it felt like Christmas morning. I also became addicted to looking at the family tree every new point of view. I couldn’t help it, this story was so immersing and I was so addicted.
“The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”
Please give the book a shot. It is worth all the hype and will change your life. I will forever cherish this book and its message, while gifting it to all my loved ones. If I could only recommend one book in 2016 it would be Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It is truly nothing short of a masterpiece.