Friday, August 05, 2016

HOMEGOING





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Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi, Alfred A Knopf, 2016, 300 pp


Summary from Goodreads: Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery.

Stretching from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's novel moves through histories and geographies.
 


My Review:
If one has read lots of books, including history, this novel does not necessarily cover new ground though perhaps it covers the subject of slavery in America in a new and ambitious way. I am very glad I read it.

Because it has been widely and well received, I don't think I can add much by writing another review. But it made me ponder on many things so I will remark on a few of those.

1) If there had not been a slave trade, would we have a race problem in the United States? If fact, how many Africans would have made it to North and Central America? And for the ones who did, what would life be like for them without having to overcome the legacy of slavery?

2) The colonial systems of England and the Netherlands primarily, make them the original culprits of this mess we are still dealing with. Also they are the original culprits of other messes: the struggles of African countries to become part of the modern world, the conflict of Israel vs Palestine (that one includes other culprits), and the unsettled nature of countries in the South Seas.

3) The chances for a happy, stable, and fulfilling life are so much more random when racism and other forms of inequality are rampant.

These are not new ideas for me or many others but the novel made me think more about them. What may be new is that a young woman born in Ghana and raised in the United States made her way through the conundrums of slavery, racism, inequality and being female, to write, sell, publish and have success with such a book. Is that a random occurrence or cause for hope? 


(Homegoing is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

6 comments:

  1. You raise very valid points, Judy. Perhaps reading this novel is in order.

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    1. Plus it is just a great novel!

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  2. I've seen a number of mentions of this book recently. I think the universe is sending me a message and maybe I need to add it to my list.

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    1. Me and the universe agree!

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  3. I would like to read this one. I find that every good novel on slavery adds a little more perspective on an abhorrent institution that's mind-boggling to believe happened on such a scale. I find the author's own story likely inspiring too.

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    1. That is what I always think about big historical happenings. It takes many many stories to give the whole picture.

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