Homegoing – Review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters, 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.

Book Review

I just want to say that Homegoing is required reading. It is also important to say that this book is not an easy read.  It is always heartbreaking to read about the slave trade, and the roles fellow tribes’ people played to sell off their own people into the slave trade.  Yaa explores the two different sides of the slave trade by following two half-sisters, Esi and Effia.  The two women do not meet each other, but they are born to the same mother. 

Esi is sold into slavery, and her descendants grow up as slaves, and end up in the slave struggle in the U.S.  Effia is married off to a British slave merchant.  Her descendants remain in Ghana, and struggle with the realities of being born from a slaver, and what is their true place, their tribe.  In seven generations from the eighteenth century to the present, Yaa explores the great civil rights struggles and cultural shifts in the U.S. and in Ghana, and how these struggles affect Esi and Effia’s descendants.  Each experience somehow tied back to the moment Esi became a slave, and Effia married a British slave merchant. The vast journey Homegoing takes spans seven generations in a breathtaking and emotionally brutal story.