BOOKS

Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0

Homegoing reminds me a lot of a blend of two novels: Americannah and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. I was reminded of Americannah because I was eduated about African history from an African perspective. In particular, Gyasi tells the bitter truth that the Original Sin of Africa was tribes raiding each other to sell the conquered off as slaves to the British. In the story Asante and Fante warriors are played against each other first for profit and then for subjugation by the English crown.

At the personal dimension this interplay leads to one line of relatives collaborating and then being subjugated; the other familial line are sold into American bondage, ferried by ships full of Death to America. This line follows much of the detail of The Underground Railroad but focuses on sharecropping and what life after Reconstruction’s abortion looked like. This line leads from the South through the Great Migration to the Ivy League.

And here the stories rejoin: the severed halves rejoin, ignorant of their role in each others’ lives, but fully aware of the preciousness of Africa.

The plot moves interestingly between one family line’s next-generation to the other family line’s next-generation starting from an original primordial mother. The pacing is fast and, like Adichie, the craft of sentences is better than the actual plot. I’ve included my highlit notes after the jump.

{
  "title": "Homegoing: A novel",
  "author": "Yaa Gyasi",
  "highlightCount": 30,
  "noteCount": 0,
  "annotations": [
    {
      "highlight": "It was only when Effia didn’t speak or question, when she made herself small, that she could feel Baaba’s love, or something like it.",
      "location": 155,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "she and James Collins were married by a clergyman who had asked Effia to repeat words she didn’t mean in a language she didn’t understand.",
      "location": 289,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "In the corner, a woman was crying so hard that it seemed her bones would break from her convulsions.",
      "location": 481,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Hell was a place of remembering, each beautiful moment passed through the mind’s eye until it fell to the ground like a rotten mango, perfectly useless, uselessly perfect.",
      "location": 491,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“You can learn anything when you have to learn it. You could learn to fly if it meant you would live another day.”",
      "location": 632,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”",
      "location": 648,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“Quiet, stupid girl, or they will beat us all!” The hiss was high and sharp, the collective cry of a hundred and fifty women filled with anger and fear.",
      "location": 799,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "James was powerful, but his power had come from his pedigree, the Collinses of Liverpool,",
      "location": 866,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "He knew that he was one of the half-caste children of the Castle, and, like the other half-caste children, he could not fully claim either half of himself, neither his father’s whiteness nor his mother’s blackness. Neither England nor the Gold Coast.",
      "location": 941,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "he would lose, but because he’d spent the last three years carefully watching, and knew better than anyone what Cudjo’s body was capable of.",
      "location": 977,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "He knew the dangers that waited across the Atlantic, but he knew too the danger in himself.",
      "location": 1038,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Akua was not the only person in the crowd who understood English. She was not the only person in the crowd who did nothing to help.",
      "location": 2938,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "if God was so big, so powerful, why did he need the white man to bring him to them? Why could he not tell them himself, make his presence known as he had in the days written about in the Book, with bush fires and dead men walking?",
      "location": 3014,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "The fetish man told her that maybe the Christian God was a question, a great and swirling circle of whys.",
      "location": 3017,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Willie would never forget the feeling of being in Harlem for the first time. Pratt City was a mining town and everything about it was focused on what lay beneath the ground. Harlem was about the sky.",
      "location": 3339,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "In Harlem, Lenox Avenue was impossible to avoid. It was where all the dirty, ugly, righteous, and beautiful things were.",
      "location": 3543,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "They walked two blocks like this, past the place where the black sea of Harlem turned into the white rush of the rest of the world, and then they stopped at an intersection.",
      "location": 3592,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on. But now we come upon the problem of conflicting stories.",
      "location": 3693,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must always ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?",
      "location": 3698,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Yaw listened as his best friend told him that he had explained to the girl that you could not inherit a scar. Now, nearing his fiftieth birthday, Yaw no longer knew if he believed this was true.",
      "location": 3729,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "At the front of the classroom he was not himself. He was a performer in the tradition of village dancers and storytellers. At home, he was who he really was. Shy and lonely, angry and embarrassed.",
      "location": 3740,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Forgiveness was an act done after the fact, a piece of the bad deed’s future. And if you point the people’s eye to the future, they might not see what is being done to hurt them in the present.",
      "location": 3886,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "‘Do you know there is evil in your lineage?’ I thought he was talking about me, the things I had done, and so I nodded. But then he said, ‘This thing you are carrying, it does not belong to you.’",
      "location": 3949,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“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.",
      "location": 3959,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free. But still, Yaw, you have to let yourself be free.”",
      "location": 3964,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "He was mad at her because he didn’t have a father, and she was mad at him because he’d become as absent as his own.",
      "location": 3999,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "“We can’t go back to something we ain’t never been to in the first place. It ain’t ours anymore. This is.” She swept her hand in front of her, as though she were trying to catch all of Harlem in it, all of New York, all of America.",
      "location": 4175,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "Harlem and heroin. Heroin and Harlem. Sonny could no longer think of one without thinking of the other. They sounded alike. Both were going to kill him. The junkies and the jazz had gone together, fed each other, and now every time Sonny heard a horn, he wanted a hit.",
      "location": 4206,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "that here “white” could be the way a person talked; “black,” the music a person listened to.",
      "location": 4405,
      "annotation": ""
    },
    {
      "highlight": "She saw how easy it was for him to slip in unnoticed, as though he had always belonged there.",
      "location": 4573,
      "annotation": ""
    }
  ]
}