Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi Review

by Sandy Taylor

Homegoing was the first book that that opened my eyes to the history of Black people. Not every Black person is up to date with their culture and history, though some are born with it drilled into them and hold it proudly like a badge of honour. And some, like myself, have avoided their history their whole life.  Because to be close to your past is to acknowledge the prejudices that you face. And we all love to avoid that which makes us uncomfortable. 

I started to educate myself last year about who I am and where I have come from.  A journey that I never will stop because I will never know enough about who I am and where I came from. To my white friends, which will be most of you, I urge you to pick up a book, watch documentaries or movies about the peoples of Africa. I too am starting from the beginning as I explore the vast expanse of my African heritage. It's daunting, it’s a lot to take in, and, sometimes, you may not know where to begin. I started with Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, and I encourage you to start with this one as well. Though fictional, it is based entirely in reality, and it is not a light read. It will sit with you, it will challenge you, it will change your perception of who you are in the world.

There was no particular reason for me picking up this book apart from its apparent beautiful cover. And when I read the back cover, I had to buy it. 

The book is a historical look at the colonisation of Black people and slavery in Ghana, and deals with racism, slavery and rape.  Though this book is fiction, it stays true to history.   Novels like this can be thought-provoking and eye-opening as many stories bear a lot of truth from real life, and in a way, helps push a point across in less of an intimidating way.   That is why I find books like Homegoing so important. Homegoing places you, the reader, face to face with the horrors of history, and those historical injustices that continue today.  

Homegoing is an extraordinary novel with well-developed characters, each drawing you into their lives. This interconnected story has been told across 250 years and 14 different perspectives.  It begins with two half-sisters, Effia the beauty, and Esi, and their narratives going down the line leading from each side of their families for 7 generations.  Each of the characters and their individual stories stood out to me, as each character was fleshed out with so much depth and humanity.  

One particular part of the book stood out is when we are taken down to the slave dungeons in Ghana.  Reading the experience these unknowing Ghanaians went through is something that will forever be etched in my brain.  You could feel their grief, anger and confusion rolling off the pages of the book.  You don't read an experience like that and not be forever changed. 

At times I had to put this book down to catch my racing thoughts from the horrific events that happened. I cried at the injustice of it all, at the callousness of what happened to my African ancestors.

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel is a life-changing, must-read novel.  

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Quarterly literary review magazine by Black, Asian, and marginalised community writers.