Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review - Homegoing

"History is storytelling. So when you study history you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice can come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you begin to get a clearer, yet still imperfect picture." (Yaw - Homegoing)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the story of the suppressed voices of Colonialism, Slavery, and Racism from the coasts of Ghana to America. It spans a period of approximately 300 years with stories told through the eyes of members of each generation. The story starts in Ghana where we learn about tribal practices - polygamy, war, prisoners of war and the initial slave trade. To bring this home there are two sisters who anchor this story: Effia from the Asante tribe who is betrothed to a white slave trader in Ghana and her half sister Essi from the Fante tribe who was captured and sold into American Slavery.

Homegoing is a collection of atrocities borne out of institutions that no longer cared for humans, where greed and pride are what's important. It highlights the strength, resolve and unfortunately the resignation of humans when dealing with horrible circumstances.

Though the underlying thread is slavery - the effects of slavery in America portrayed in Homegoing are more heart-wrenching than those from Ghana. Slavery in America an institution based on white supremacy, that lasted too long, with unimaginable cruelty, led to ramifications that have never been addressed -  the convict leasing system, which was an outgrowth of Jim Crow, which led to the Great Migration, which led heroin in Harlem, which led to the war on drugs, which led to the crack epidemic, which led to mass incarceration. All of these are touched on in Homegoing.

With each person's story in Homegoing, the legacies and ramifications of slavery in both continents are addressed. Near the end of this book, I felt like it became an autobiography and some of the stories lose their richness.

There is a family tree at the beginning of the book which I referred to as I started each chapter; this was helpful as it can become hard to keep track of characters over such large periods of time

For the breadth of time that Homegoing covers, it is done well and deeply impactful.

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