Dazzling the whole world  with her writing talent, Yaa Gyasi published a book that made Ghana proud: “Homegoing” mentions vitally important problems that migrats have been facing with from 18th century till nowadays. The book is considered to be a must-read for any person who might describe themselves as “woke”. Let’s plunge into author’s life and the background of book’s creation. 

 

“This hasn’t gone unnoticed”

Despite the topic of her publication is a hot one in almost every media resource these days, Gyasi hasn’t been on literary scene before. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she obtained a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Now moving in Berkeley, California, Gyasi is now 27 years old and doesn’t really like being at the top of the discussion: “I don’t know that it’s better for your writing or anything.”

The “Homegoing” begins with the story of two half sisters born in Ghana around 1750, Effia and Esi. Their fathers are leaders of two peoples, the Fante and Asante, who are both victims of the slavery.  Time changes, and sisters were separated: Effia’s descendents remain in Africa and  Esi was sold into bondage in the American South. The following book chapters describe the destiny of future generations up to our times. The story ends at the moment when two distant cousins from both lines, being unaware of their kinship, have met in California and together return to the castle on the Gold Coast. This magnificent coinсidence truly grasps the imagination of reader: how come they have met each other after three centuries? For real, it’s a small world. “The structure was the hardest thing to figure out. (…)  But then a friend came to visit, and we decided to go to Cape Coast Castle on a whim. And while I was there, I took the tour, and the tour guide was talking about how British soldiers used to marry the local women, which is something I had never heard about before”, – tells Gyasi about the historical roots of her ideas.

Speaking about the title, it could represent a great subject-matter for anthropologists: it stands for the funeral ritual performed by slaves in the Americas that returns souls of dead members of the community to their motherland. Going through slave trade, tribal wars, arrival of white missionaries, colonization,  Human Rights Movement governmental suppression and other experiences black people had in America, the book leaves us with a happy ending, full of enthusiasm for the future. This sence of optimism is a imprescriptible point of Gyasi’s style, that makes her work so touching.

 

Cyclical nature of society

The conditions of Cape Coast Castle, where slaves were kept before being transported abroad, and a lack of precise information about those who were suffering there, deeply shocked Gyasi:”It makes sense, in a lot of ways, but I felt that it was such a shame to not be able to get these stories from the source. So I thought this novel was an opportunity to restore a voice to groups of people who have historically been silenced”. The massive historical research was carried out by Gyasi almost alone, party because of the Ghanaian perception of these issues: in schools they don’t teach in or talk about thraumatic past times in families. Living in white area of Huntsville from the childhood, Gyasi and her family have always tried to build friendship with the community of Ghanaian immigrants.

James Baldwin, Edward P. Jones and Jhumpa Lahiri are some of the authors Gyasi is most inspired from. They all dedicated their life to writing about sharp obstacles and challenges of immigrant’s life. Like they, Gyasi thinks about blackness in America –  what should connect all people in future and how important similarities are for living in freedom, peace and tolerance.

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