Never has there been a story more necessary in our time than Homegoing (2016, Knopf). It is masterful braid of anecdotes that traces the paths of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, through generations, cataloguing the brutal pain of colonization, slavery, and unending racism, as well as the vivid and energetic hope for freedom, happiness, romance, and familial love in both Ghana and in the New World.
The story follows the family lines of two women, both born in Ghana from the same mother and different fathers. One is captured and sold into the slave trade and the other is married off to an English man against her desires (her children remain as royalty of the colonial regime in Africa). Gyasi has intricately woven together stories that trace the detailed lives of each of her characters. In doing so, she illuminates a diverse array of social issues faced by Africans, black Americans, mothers, and children alike, emphasizing that all of America was affected in the wake of the English invasion of Africa, and compelling those who were benefited by the colonization to take note.
A massive undertaking, Gyasi encompasses hundreds of years of history between the covers of this 320-page masterpiece. Homegoing is not only impeccably researched, but also offers the realistic perspectives from a diverse range of characters in age, gender, culture, and time period. It is a heart-wrenching tale and provides context for a series of events that are all too often erased in school curriculums on American History. This book should be required reading, for, while it evokes treacherous scenarios that are difficult to read or even imagine in the modern day, were endured and are an honest piece of history that should no longer be overlooked.
Gyasi portrays the devastating consequences of racism on hardworking families in the United States, not only after the civil war but into the present day. Ultimately, the characters who have been separated in Ghana unite in their search for the sense of a true home. Each instilled with fear that has been carried through generations, one of water, one of fire, the descendants of Effia and Esi meet without recognizing their relation and find themselves at home with each other.
With straightforward syntax, Gyasi’s prose mimics the level of comprehension that would match the ages of each her protagonists throughout the story. The novel is straightforward in its delivery, yet nuanced in its repertoire of themes. What is sure to become an American classic, Homegoing is a work of enduring brilliance.
Featured image from Butler.edu