Sunday, July 30, 2017

Book Club: Homegoing

The book our book club chose to read this last month was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Gyasi was born in Ghana, was raised in Alabama and now lives in Berkeley, CA. This was her first novel and it was excellent.

It is a novel, but I do wonder how much of it is based on history and maybe even her own family's experience (although she never says this). This novel is the dissecting of a family tree. Two girls born by the same woman but raised in separate Ghanian villages by different families. One is loved and adored, the other abused and shamed. The story begins in the 1700s and follows each of their family's lineage up until the 1980s where a young girl who was born in Ghana grows up in Alabama and travels back to her homeland. The other lineage includes the slave trade and the struggles they had to find freedom.

Each chapter covers a different person's story and although I met a lot of characters throughout the book, each chapter captivated me in a way I hadn't expected and I was able to follow it well (the family tree at the beginning of the book was very helpful!). Knowing our history with slavery and racism made this novel feel very real and true to me. And reminded me of how dark this history is.

Ten years ago, I was living in The Gambia, West Africa and was able to tour two historic landmarks that were built to house/store slaves until the next "shipment." One in The Gambia and another in Senegal. Reading this book brought back many of those images to my mind and the stories I heard. It also reminded me a lot of the book called "Roots" which is a true account of someone being sold to slavery from Africa.

One of the thoughts I had when I read this book (which I highly recommend by the way!) is that no matter which story line these characters had come from, whether it was the family that mostly stayed in Africa or the one that was shipped to the United States, or if it was the 1700s or the 1900s, there were struggles with something. Not one of them had an easy life, which may just be part of this novel, but it also made me question how life is today -- everyone seems to struggle with something-- and our family's history is always a part of us.

Have you read it? What did you think?

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