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Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. | Photo credit: @parisspeaking | #Homegoing #YaaGyasi #AFREADs
This beautiful novel by Yaa Gyasi (also her debut!) told the story of the slave trade across the Gold Coast (modern day Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Benin) and the historical implications it had in the world. I know about the slave trade in general but not specifically in terms of Ghana.
And Yaa Gyasi told the story in the most intricate way. The novel follows the slave trade line from start to end, using a family tree to describe how each generation was affected. From Effia, whose mixed race linage told the story of obligation and honour. To Esi, whose linage told the story of holding onto tradition through the test of time.
Interestingly, Esi’s story reminded me of Roots, an iconic film which also depicted how African tradition can filter through generations, sometimes watered down, sometimes not – but still told a story that cannot be forgotten.
And Homegoing isn’t just another slave story. It was one that actually focused on the changing nature of humans and their desires. For Quey (Effia’s mixed race son), it was his desire to break free of his colonial past which actually ended up having devastating consequences. Despite the fact he was extremely privileged, he gave that all up to be with the love of his life. Unlike Roots, we are not inundated with whippings, rapes and violence, but with the glory of kingdoms in Africa and the strong political hierarchies that existed. Also the achievements in later generations and the staying power of hope.
The point is, Yaa Gyasi addressed several other themes than slavery, she also addressed the impact of colourism, the struggle for freedom, love and the importance of history. At times I found the jump between each characters story difficult to follow, also struggling to keep up with the introduction of new characters. But, the jumps were necessary to show the multitude of narratives and consequences resulting from one action.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for a different angle on the slave trade, exploring the impacts and how humans are able to navigate this.
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P.S has anyone else read this books? Tell me your thoughts!