Homegoing is a novel of short stories which stretches across the two continents of America and Africa. The transatlantic slave trade and all its cruelties are depicted, illustrating its harmful effects on the people of West Africa. The story begins in an Asante village on the Gold Coast with a wicked stepmother that emotionally and physically abuses young Effia and astutely tricks her into hiding her first menstrual period. She convinces Effia’s father that she is unable to have children and has her sold to a British slaver named James that lives at Cape Coast Castle. Yaa Gyasi depicts the demons that haunt Cape Coast Castle and larger Ghana as we are reminded of the torturous and inhumane conditions slaves were kept in the castle’s dungeons. The story shifts to her half-sister Esi, whose father is a notable warrior and has conquered a village and enslaved its women and children. When Esi is tricked by the servant girl, she herself is captured, sold, and transported as cargo to the USA to work on plantation. The novel traces Esi’s and Effia’s bloodline signifying the relationship between Africa and America. The stories mirror each other, perhaps a reflection on their shared ancestry and subsequent destiny.
Yaa Gyasi ambitiously narrates the story of one bloodline stemming from two sisters and marks important historical events from the induction of cacao to the Anglo-Asante War and the looming transatlantic slave trade. In American history, readers are made aware of sharecropping, police brutality, the vicious treatment of black people, the perilous coal mining industry, and the Harlem Renaissance. She tackles big themes: drug abuse, deceit, love, mixed-race identity, losing one’s home and history. More importantly, we see the impact of slavery. Kojo’s pregnant wife is stolen from him in the North and enslaved to work in the South, even though she is a free person. Similarly, H is wrongfully imprisoned and forced to work in the coal mines. Once he is free, he returns to coal mines as a form of employment despite the inhumane conditions and high mortality rate
I discovered this book in the library, having previously seeing it on good reads and other book lists, I decided to try it. My favourite parts of the book capture Fante and Asante myths, legends, and culture which give the story its richness. Most people would enjoy this book as the story unfolds beautifully, but it is especially recommended to young people of any diaspora. Migration itself is a tough and arduous challenge and the novel captures instability when uprooted from one’s home.
If you like this, you will probably enjoy underground railroad by Colson Whitehead.