While I was in Thailand two weeks back, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was my travel companion. And such a beautiful book it is that even when I was in Thailand, I had parts of three continents with me. A story revolving around two sisters, born into two very different destinies only to be entwined after seven generations.
The story of Homegoing revolves around Effia and Esi, one sold into slavery and one a slave trader’s wife. Effia, after her step mother’s planned circumstances, ends up marrying a slave trader, James Collins. Though her life seems to improve from the poverty and family hatred, she always kept close to her home and ensured that her son Quey also keeps one of his feet in the African nation.
Esi, on the other hand, is one of the slaves being handled by James. Right, where Effia was setting up her new life, down below the same place were dungeons where her sister was sandwiched between slaves and could feel each other’s elements running down their skin. Esi gives birth to her daughter Ness right in those dungeons which seal the fate of both generations further.
One part of the Homegoing covers Effia’s descendants through centuries of wars in Ghana, as Fante and Asante’s nations fought for their land against the British colonization. The other part follows Esi and her children in America, living through the dark period of slavery, from the plantations to the north, through the abolishment of slavery, and The Great Migration, and then towards Harlem, drug abuse and today.
In the end, the descendants finally seal the family fate in Homegoing through Marjorie Agyekum and Marcus Clifton, both descendants of two great ladies who challenged death at each step of their life and lived proudly with a deep feeling of love for their homeland. Marjorie and Marcus go back to Ghana, to live the life of Great Effia and Great Esi, to understand where they came from.
My favorite line “What I know now, my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”
Homegoing is not just about Effia and Esi, it also tracks the bloodline of Africans, how they came into slavery and how they got free to live as normal human beings. Yaa Gyasi is a brilliant writer and that too for someone who has written such an amazing debut book. What attracted me first towards Homegoing was that it revolves around a concept that many of us have only read about in our history books and that too briefly.
Speaking about technicalities of the Homegoing, there are many characters. Also, the twists and turns will keep you awake and you will always be eager to know what will happen next? The language is easy to understand, Yaa Gyasi has made sure to keep it simple, straight and to the point.
But when you read Homegoing, you just don’t read it. You live the characters, you live the pain, the joy, the war and the culture. In the end, you simply fall in love with it. And a very handful of books can have that effect on you. And the best part is, Yaa Gyasi has managed to have that kind of effect on the reader with her first book itself!
I can’t find any more words to write about Homegoing, so all I am going to say is that make sure you read it and let your heart and mind soak it.