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Homegoing Paperback – May 2, 2017
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From School Library Journal
This sweeping family saga encompasses seven generations of descendants of a Fante and his captured Asante house slave. After giving birth to a daughter, Maame manages to escape, making her way alone back to her own village. She is taken in by an Asante warrior, becomes his third wife, and has a second daughter by him. The two sisters, Effia and Esi, will never meet, their lives will follow very different paths, but their descendants will share a legacy of warfare and slavery. Effia will marry an Englishman who oversees the British interest in the Gold Coast slave trade. Esi will be captured by Fante warriors, traded to the Englishmen, and shipped to America to be sold into slavery. Progressing through 300 years of Ghanaian and American history, the narrative unfolds in a series of concise portraits of each sister's progeny that capture pivotal moments in each individual's life. Every portrait reads like a short story unto itself, making this volume a good choice for harried teens, yet Gyasi imbues the work with a remarkably seamless feel. Through the combined historical perspectives of each descendant, the author reveals that racism is often rooted in tribalism, greed, and the lust for power. Many students will be surprised to discover that the enslavement of Africans was not just a white man's crime. VERDICT Well researched, beautifully told, and easy to read, this title is destined to become required, as well as enlightening, reading for teens.—Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“Homegoing is an inspiration.” —Ta-Nehisi Coates
"Spectacular." —Zadie Smith
“Powerful. . . . Compelling. . . . Illuminating.” —The Boston Globe
“A blazing success.” —Los Angeles Times
“I could not put this book down.” —Roxane Gay
“Devastating. . . . Luminous.” —Entertainment Weekly
“A beautiful story.” —Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
“Spellbinding.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Dazzling. . . . Devastating. . . . Truly captivating.” —The Washington Post
“Brims with compassion. . . . Yaa Gyasi has given rare and heroic voice to the missing and suppressed.” —NPR
“Tremendous . . . Spectacular. . . . Essential reading.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Magical. . . . Hypnotic. . . . Yaa Gyasi [is] a stirringly gifted writer.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Powerful. . . . Gyasi has delivered something unbelievably tough to pull off: a centuries-spanning epic of interlinked short stories. . . . She has a poet’s ability to pain a scene with a handful of phrases.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Thanks to Ms. Gyasi’s instinctive storytelling gifts, the book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down, over the centuries. . . . By its conclusion, the characters’ tales of loss and resilience have acquired an inexorable and cumulative emotional weight.” —The New York Times
“[Toni Morrison’s] influence is palpable in Gyasi’s historicity and lyricism; she shares Morrison’s uncanny ability to crystalize, in a single event, slavery’s moral and emotional fallout. . . . No novel has better illustrated the way in which racism became institutionalized in this country.” —Vogue
“Gyasi gives voice, and an empathetic ear, to the ensuing seven generations of flawed and deeply human descendants, creating a patchwork mastery of historical fiction.” —Elle
“A remarkable feat—a novel at once epic and intimate, capturing the moral weight of history as it bears down on individual struggles, hopes, and fears. A tremendous debut.” —Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment
“Rich. . . . Fascinating. . . . Each chapter is tightly plotted, and there are suspenseful, even spectacular climaxes.” —Vulture
“[A] commanding debut . . . will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. When people talk about all the things fiction can teach its readers, they’re talking about books like this.” —Marie Claire
“Homegoing weaves a spectacular epic. . . . Gyasi gives voice not just to a single person or moment, but to a resonant chorus of eight generations.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“Moving. . . . Compelling. . . . Gyasi is an enormously talented writer.” —The Dallas Morning News
“I cannot remember the last time I read a novel that made me want to use the adjective perfect. . . . Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a feat rarely achieved: a book with the scope of world history and the craft of something much smaller. . . . The cumulative effect is staggering.” —Molly McArdle, Brooklyn Magazine
“Carrying on in the tradition of her foremothers—like Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat, Assia Djebar and Bessie Head—Gyasi has created a marvelous work of fiction that both embraces and re-writes history.” —Paste
“Impressive . . . intricate in plot and scope. . . . Homegoing serves as a modern-day reconstruction of lost and untold narratives—and a desire to move forward.” —Miami Herald
“Heart-wrenching . . . . Yaa Gyasi’s assured Homegoing is a panorama of splendid
faces.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A remarkable achievement, marking the arrival of a powerful new voice in fiction.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Luminous. . . . The author thrillingly depicts her characters’ migrations from mud-hut villages to Harlem's jazz clubs to Ghana's silvered beaches, celebrating how place and fate shape us all.” —Oprah.com
“Epic . . . a timely, riveting portrayal of the global African Diaspora—and the aftereffects that linger on to this day.” —The Root
“An emotional, beautiful, and remarkable book. . . . Homegoing is stunning—a truly heartbreaking work of literary genius.” —Bustle
“An important, riveting page-turner filled with beautiful prose, Homegoing shoots for the moon and lands right on it.” —Buzzfeed
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Top customer reviews
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Effia is sold to a white British lord, living in Africa to negotiate the slave trade, and she spurs a line of descendants who grapple with the impact of the slave trade within Africa. The story of how slavery began in Africa is not one I knew well, and it was heartbreaking and jarring, to learn how the different tribes stalked and captured each other, selling rival sons and daughters and wives to the British, fueling the trade.
Esi is herself captured, and kept in the dungeon of the Castle where her sister lives as the "wench" wife of a British trader, until she is sent through the Middle Passage to America, into slavery. The story of Esi's life in the dungeon, waiting to be shipped she knows not where, like every bit of the book, is so detailed and rich and true that it is astonishing to realize the author is only 26 years old. This book could easily be a lifetime achievement, and instead it is just the beginning of what I imagine will be an amazing body of work.
Homegoing has many, many, many strengths, and perhaps just one weakness. The strengths are found in the story, and in the writing. It is a glory of riches. From the wars between the Asante and Esperante tribes in Africa in the 1700s to the Middle Passage to the slave plantations to life as a freeman in the North to the villages of Africa in the 1800s, to Harlem, through to the impact of the prison culture and drug culture of modern day America, the scope of this book is astonishing. And it is only 300 pages long.
My one wish with the book is that it started to feel a little bit that I was getting a glimpse of a life, when I wanted more. In some ways, the book is a series of interlocking short stories: every chapter is the story of one character, representing that generation There are 14 chapters, I think; seven generations, and Esi, Effia and each of their descendants get one story per generation. So we see Esi in the Dungeon, and on the Middle Passage, but then we do not see her again. We hear from her daughter, Ness, that Esi in America was known as "Frownie" because she never smiled, and that when Ness was born, there was a strange sound heard, which some suspect was the sound of Esi laughing because it was never heard before or since. I cared for Esi, and wished we had heard more of her story after she reached America. Similarly, Ness herself represents the story of slavery, but we only have about 20 pages with her. Those pages are wisely used - I fell in love with her and with Sam, her proud African husband - but again, it is gone so quickly. It was hard not to feel some frustration; these characters and stories started to feel almost wasted, so much richness that we just didn't get a chance to explore.
I came to understand that Ms. Gyasi is telling the story not of one person, or even one family, but instead, tracing a much larger theme, and arc, of the cost of cruelty, and the redeeming power of sacrificial love. The story begins with a slave escaping (an African slave escaping from an African village), and ends hundreds of years later, as two of that slave's descendants return to the village, and to the ocean. It is a promise of healing through the most horrible crimes, for which the most horrible price is paid. On some level, it is so much more powerful than yet another story about a family. And yet - I cared so much for these people, I wish I had known them a bit more. But maybe that is the point as well.