Okay, okay yeah, I know. It’s not a beach read. But bare with me, okay?
I go through a lot of books before making a choice for each month. Sometimes it’s 3, sometimes it’s more like 6. And sometimes, rarely, there is The One. Sometimes there’s a novel that is just the choice, the only choice, the most epic and brilliant thing I’ve read, head and shoulders above the rest. It’s like the clouds part and a choir of angels descend.
Homegoing was definitely a ‘choir of angels’ moment. It’s an expertly woven tale of a family separated – two half-sisters at the start and their subsequent sons and daughters. Each chapter is a unique history, bringing us through time on two different continents. Through Gyasi’s storytelling, we as readers are absolutely transported. Homegoing gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “take a walk in someone else’s shoes”.
Gyasi has really written an epic of the black experience in America and beyond, a full-bodied story of humanity, each generation individual and rife with problems unique to the characters and their respective time periods. Each story stands both on it’s own and as a collective, creating an intricate puzzle of a family tree. It is a story of slavery, of racism and oppression, of loss and love, of family. But most of all, it is a story of resilience.
Since each chapter is a new person’s story, Gyasi has risen to the challenge of completely fleshing out these characters within a shorter time span. There is a sense of pride in these characters – even through hardship, their conviction remains strong, they remain truthful to themselves and their people even when they are being taken advantage of, and a lot of advantage is taken. But they remain, throughout all that, rooted in themselves and their families. There is always a sense of moving forward, and while where they came from is always important, never are they stuck.
I think there’s a lot we can take away from Homegoing, as readers. Personally I love books like this, where I get to experience a life (or in this case, several) that are so radically different from my own. It’s important to let literature open us up in this way – to open our eyes and our hearts to new experiences and new worlds.
And I want to thank Yaa Gyasi for doing just that.