“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi follows the descendants of two half-sisters from 18th century Ghana. Unaware of the other’s existence, one will marry an Englishman and live at Cape Coast Castle, while the other is imprisoned there and sold into slavery. Through eight generations readers are shown the lifetime consequences of slavery on those taken from Ghana and those who stayed, shaping each family member with the memories left behind and what the meaning of captivity means to them.
*Review may contain spoilers*
I don’t believe I’ve ever been this captivated by a story for quite some time. With so much praise surrounding this book I’m glad to say I couldn’t agree more.
To be honest, I didn’t write any notes while reading only because I was too engrossed to do so. From beginning to end my eyes were glued to the pages, desperate to know what the next generation of the families would bring.
There’s something about generation stories I can’t get enough of. I love seeing how generations impacts the next and so on, especially when it deals with historical content, such as how one side of this family sells slaves and the other are slaves. It’s a unique and heartbreaking plot and it had me by the heartstrings.
Homegoing deals with many themes from slavery, segregation, to cultural changes, but my personal favorite was the discussion of history. From the personal history of the characters to worldwide, I was completely taken in when Gyasi explains how different perspectives on events shape what is considered truth and what isn’t.
I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with history, since it’s usually written by the ‘winners’ and unpleasant realities are set aside for the most part. Despite this, I can value the information even if I don’t agree with it. And, Gyasi emphasizes this struggle time and time again; especially with the family in Ghana and the effect their slavery dealings have on how they’re viewed by their peers and the double standard the rest of the world has.
The only major problem I had was how the book was separated into parts. I felt it disconnected the book and I wasn’t as engrossed in the second half as the first because of it. Had it just continuously flowed with no separation I wouldn’t have made a fuss, but it was enough to make me notice a slight change in tone and pace.
I also wish there had been a bit more to each character, especially toward the end, or at least more time with them. The chapters were easy reads, but for some characters their time in the spotlight was too short to fully satisfy.
In the end, my personal favorites were Effia, Esi, Ness, and H., with shout outs to Quey and Yaw.
I will revisit Homegoing again and again in the future with its beautiful story, diving deep into the emotional and physical scars of each character, and with such a unique voice I can’t wait to see what Ms. Gyasi has in store next.