I finally managed to finish a book again! Hurray! And what a book! Homegoing. By Yaa Gyasi. The book, first published in 2016, follows the paths of two halfsisters from Ghana over their descendants for eight generations. While one sister marries an English slave trader, her halfsister – unknown to her – is imprisoned and shipped as a slave to America. As a result, their respective children undergo very different fates. For every generation she switches between the lineage of both sisters. A family tree in the beginning of the book helps you to keep track. Gyasi’s prose is emotional but straightforward. As such, it is also a good read for non-native English readers. But her writing style is not the reason why I recommend this book, its topic is: colonialism, slavery and its effects.
Over recent years I have read three books about slavery and its effects. The first was ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison, the second ‘The Underground Railroad’ by Colson Whitehead and now ‘Homegoing’. ‘Beloved’ was so heartbreaking that I could only read a couple of pages a day. Morrison captures what slavery does to one’s psyche so well that you are simply mentally wrung out afterwards. Whitehead describes more of the horrors people were put through, making you wonder if it can get any worse. (The answer is always yes.) Gyasi takes another path. By the juxtaposition of both lineages and their fates, she slowly displays all of the moral dilemmas African and African-American history holds.
All three books have made me keenly aware of my ignorance of slavery and postcolonialism. But while the first two were more a rude awakening, ‘Homegoing’ makes you aware of how difficult this history actually is. Being white and wealthy, being safe and ignorant in our Western world and mindset, I often have no idea of the historical and personal baggage other people struggle with. I guess a lot of us don’t. Thank God for books like these to enlighten us. Dear Mallory, keep them coming.