Book Review: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

Reviewed by Bev Scott
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, book reviewed by Bev Scott Author

Homegoing is an amazing book! It is an incredible example of how much we can learn from well-written fiction about culture, family dynamics, human emotions, history and so much more. Author YaaGyasi tells stories drawn from the lives of two ancestral family lines beginning in Ghana in the eighteenth century. The path of these two family lines begin with two half-sisters who are unaware of each other. One marries an Englishman and lives in comfort; the other is captured and sold into slavery. After eight generations the paths converge as descendants meet in the U.S. 

The stories are rich, intense, inspiring and tragic. From the tales set in Ghana, we learn the cultural richness of the native tribes. Gyasi tells beautiful but often intense stories describing traditions, norms, cultural practices, and family challenges. She unflinchingly exposes the brutal and painful exploitation by white European slave traders. Readers like me who are white will gain valuable insights about the impact of racism. Then, in the following centuries, the racism of that exploitation become embedded in the DNA of every institution in our country. 

Yaa Gyasi tells each story with an event set in a point in time, introducing members of the family which are connected to both the prior generation and the generation which follows. It is an intriguing technique enabling the reader to learn the family lore and traditions or the loss of lore and traditions, for eight generations. We learn about the human and the cultural losses and the emotional damage past from one generation to another. We learn how the legacy of slavery restricts and brutalizes. And we learn that despite the pain and the damage, hope for the future survives.

Homegoing is a brilliant book which I highly recommend.