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Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Book Review:  Homegoing by Yaa GyasiHomegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on June 7th 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 305
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads

Goodreads Synopsis:

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

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.

MY REVIEW:

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read and it’s also probably one of the most ambitious.  Homegoing begins by introducing the stories of two half-sisters who are destined to never meet each other due to forces beyond their control.  One sister, Effia, is married off by her family to an Englishman and whisked away to live in a castle in Cape Coast.  Unbeknownst to Effia, her new home is actually a “slave castle” and thousands of her fellow countrymen and women are imprisoned in dungeons right beneath her feet, where they will soon be sold into slavery and transported across the Atlantic.  Included among those prisoners, the half-sister Effia has never met and never will, Esi. The rest of the story then traces the family lines of both Effia and Esi from the 1700s up to present day, demonstrating just how deep the scars of slavery run even today.  While the story is beautifully written – Gyasi is a brilliant storyteller – the journey itself is raw, honest, and often painful.  Gyasi powerfully captures the brutality of the slave traders, the dehumanizing aspects of slavery, as well as the pervasive racism that has continued long after abolition.

STRENGTHS  OF HOMEGOING:

I was completely impressed that Gyasi was able to cover so much ground historically in just 300 pages, but not only does she do it, but she does it beautifully and intimately.  She accomplishes this by using alternating chapters to trace each family line forward in history.  She starts with a chapter on Effia, then follows with one on Esi, and then continues this alternating pattern with each new chapter giving us the perspective of one of Effia’s or Esi’s descendants.  Each chapter is a standalone story, a vignette basically, that serves to provide both an intimate portrait of a descendent and show us how that descendent connects back to either Effia or Esi, and then goes on to provide a vivid snapshot of the racial history at that particular period in time.   In this manner, we are taken through the 300 years of racial history from 18th century tribal wars in Africa, colonialism, and slavery, to the Fugitive Slave Act, abolition, Jim Crow law, Harlem in the 20th century, continued racism, and so much more.

What truly blew me away was how Gyasi was able to craft such vivid characters in so few pages.  Only about 20 pages, sometimes even less, are devoted to each descendent, but in each 20 page segment, Gyasi paints such a rich and vivid portrait of the descendent  that I easily became invested in all 14 characters whose stories we are presented with – their hopes, their fears, their pain, everything.  I actually found myself becoming sad at the end of each chapter because I wanted to follow the characters further, but knew I probably wouldn’t encounter them again because of the way the novel was structured.  But seriously, 20 pages to make me that attached to a character?  Wow. That’s powerful writing!

WEAKNESSES:

Aside from me wanting to keep following each character beyond his or her allotted chapter, I can’t think of anything I would consider to be a weakness.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I honestly think Homegoing is destined to become a classic and I’d love to see it make its way into high school and college classrooms.   It’s an important book because of the history that it covers, and it’s also a beautifully written book, that I think everyone should read.

I very much look forward to reading more from Gyasi because she is truly a gifted writer with a bright future.

RATING:  5 STARS

About Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo. Her debut novel, is the Homegoing (Knopf, June 2016).

Top 10 Books I’d Rush to Buy if Given a Fully Loaded Gift Card

top ten tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Books You’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed You A Fully Loaded Gift Card.   This has probably been the easiest Top Ten Tuesday for me to do since I started participating because I ALWAYS have a long list of books that I’d buy if money were not an issue. A list I might add that is inspired by all of the wonderful reviews and recommendations of my fellow book bloggers. 🙂

Top Ten Books I’d Buy Right This Second If Someone Handed Me A Fully Loaded Gift Card

 

1. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

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Goodreads Synopsis: A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising “half-caste” children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon, before being shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery. (Read more…)

2. And I Darken by Kiersten White

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Goodreads Synopsis: This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy. (Read more…)

3. This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

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Goodreads Synopsis: Synopsis: There’s no such thing as safe. Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be. August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided. Their city is crumbling. Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something. But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which? (Read more…)

4. Redemption Road by John Hart

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Goodreads Synopsis: From the bestselling and prize-winning author of The Last Child and Iron House comes this long-awaited new thriller that will appeal to all fans of Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane.

Elizabeth Black is a hero. She is a cop who single-handedly rescued a young girl from a locked cellar and shot two brutal kidnappers dead. But she’s also a cop with a secret. And she’s not the only one…Set in an America of desperate small towns and uneasy and remote landscapes, REDEMPTION ROAD has all of John Hart’s trademark evocation of the abandoned and the derelict and sense of place. With descriptions so chilling and a story so full of twists and turns you cannot stop reading, it marks a new high point in the writing of this very talented author. (Read more…)

5. Falling by Jane Green

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Goodreads Synopsis: The New York Times bestselling author of The Beach House,Jemima J, and Summer Secrets presents a novel about the pleasure and meaning of finding a home—and family—where you least expect them…

When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either. (Read more…)

6. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

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Goodreads Synopsis: For fans of The Princess Bride comes the comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger—and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong. (Read more…)

7. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Goodreads Synopsis: From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…(Read more…)

8. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

harry potter
Goodreads Synopsis: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places. (Read more…)

9. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

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Goodreads Synopsis: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two. (Read more…)

10. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Goodreads Synopsis: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself. (Read more…)

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So, my fellow book lovers, what books would you rush out and buy if someone were kind enough to hand you a fully loaded gift card? And OMG, doesn’t just the thought of a fully loaded gift card to go book shopping with just give you warm fuzzies?