Homegoing [1]

Author:

Yaa Gyasi

Title:

Homegoing [1]

Publisher:

Penguin

Nataka Books Reviews: 

Homegoing [1]

Books such as "Homegoing" tell history in far more detail and personalised way that disignated texts at times. The goal here is to chart the sisters lives over generations. 


Yaa Gyasi was born in Mampong, Ghana and grew up in Huntsville, Alabama. The experince of both landscapes, textures and deep history is brought together in this novel.


--Review by Nataka Books

Nataka Books Full Review: 

Homegoing [1]

A while ago we watched a film where the leading female character stood out easily. She had a unique cadence to her speech,  carried herself confidently, walked with a medium stride with shoulders back and "had the bag secured." as the young 'uns say to-day.  The leading character was a very beautiful lady, the other characters acknowledged it through their roles and she knew it too. The word that the Mayor and the Congressman used was "sassy." Her memorable name was "Mayme." An intriguing name, but a beautiful normal name we thought. And it fitted sassy Mayme in the film to a tee.


Then we picked up "Homegoing" by Yaa Gyasi where we meet the two sisters, Effia and Esi, who have been forced down completely different paths by patriachy, unspeakable inhumanity and the search to destroy life and create wealth. 


For Esi, a place called "Hell" is where she ends up, having been yanked from her mother's arms into slavery by the people whose descendants today have the liver to call other people evil.  Yaa Gyasi tells the story in its rawness to include historical narrative but the story is always moving, events unfolding even as we brace ourselves. 


Books such as "Homegoing" tell history in far more detail and personalised way that disignated texts at times. The goal here is to chart the sisters lives over generations. 


In "Homegoing" we meet "Maame" who Esi misses as she moves from one farm to the next surviving the brutality meeted out by humans who casually deny it. The origin of "Mayme" was "Maame" which was mother in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana which was forbidden in Mississippi.


We thoroughly enjoy books with a historical arc of events. The  author tells as a single story through the characters and through the pages each readers is exposed to th truth.


The character that stood out for us was Ness, derived from 'Goodness', the first word she uttered having refused for many years to speak. What was there to be said? Ness defends other enslaved people even when it puts her life at risk.


The story of Ness and her ancestors including Maame explains how we are here today and the immesurable cost. Yaa Gyasi expertly reflects on history, explores the conditions and  emotions that can only lead to better understanding in our world.


Yaw does not believe in forgiveness, "A trick their Christians had learned  and spoke loudly and freely to the people of the Gold Coast. Forgivess they shouted all the while committing their wrongs."


The irony when Yaw's daugher Marjorie is unable or refused to speak English at school, and is forced to under the threat of punishment takes the reader back to her great-great-great Grandmother Ness who had endured the same fate under harrowing circurmstences; forced to speak English instead of Twi. This perfectly sums up what 'Homegoing' is about, the physical return home but in many other ways the return journey cannot be said to be complete. Or can it?


We found the way the novel is arranged fascinating. Each chapter uses a character as the title and links the story between the generations, whilst moving forward and recalling the past. Similar books normally use time as chapters to capture the evolution of events. Having the names: Effia, Esi, Ness and so on centres the events so that they cease to resemble fiction and work more like a biography of a family. Brilliant !


--Review by Nataka Books