Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
It does not take much for me to like a book, or find areas of interest, or things to appreciate in a story, because all work is valuable for one reason or another. But it does take something, that magic, to feel a book in your gut, as author Yaa Gyasi wrote. Homegoing is one of those books. It is that book. It was exceptional and, in many ways, if it had come out at the same time as Underground Railroad, this year's Pulitzer, I think Gyasi could have given Whitehead a run for his money. In any case, both books are invaluable, essential today as they have been since time immemorial, because it reminds us of our human history, of our potential to sub-humanize even when that person is our brother or sister, but it also shows our potential for unbelievable love. The spectrum of mankind is wonderful.
Beginning in the 1760s, this book follows two half-sisters from separate tribes in Ghana, who never meet, through the generations that follow them. Each chapter is based on the offspring of one of these sisters or their children - their son, their daughter's son, their great grandson's daughter, and so forth, until we arrive at today. I binge read each episode of the characters' lives and was perfectly dissatisfied with their conclusion, in that I wanted each of their stories to evolve, but I also could not wait to discover what would happen next. In 20-30 pages per character, Gyasi creates a new world, and shows you each of their suffering and their bonds, whether by history or by family.
Once again, my own privilege was reflected in its pages. Because this is a story of colonization, slavery, segregation and ongoing racism. It is a beautiful history of people told through their voices, and a reminder of how this history was so shaped by disgusting appropriation of peoples and places. For that reason, I do not want to say more, because this is not a subject on which I can say much. I can listen and I can read and I can support. What Gyasi wrote was a masterpiece, and I hope it will build on a growing area of African and African American literature. For me, it has expanded my understanding of consequence, decades and centuries down the line: families split, lives lost and each triumph - a surprising and heartbreaking ongoingness - when hundreds of years of history have been stacked against you. I am so thankful for the experience of having read this book.