Book Review: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.


Synopsis (from

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Stretching from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi’s novel moves through histories and geographies and captures–with outstanding economy and force– the troubled spirit of our own nation. She has written a modern masterpiece

Rating: 5/5 Stars

My thoughts

A remarkable read. I loved every single word of this book. I don’t think I’ve come across a novel like this in a really long time.

The story follows the bloodlines of two half-sisters; one who marries a white trader in Ghana while the other is shipped off to America to be sold as a slave. Both of them experience the prejudices and hardships of being a person of color within the last 100 years.

While in the middle of reading this book, a guy on the street asked me for directions to the train. Instead of just pointing out to him where to go, I asked him to follow me since we were going in the same direction. He asked where I was from and what part of Brooklyn I lived so I asked the same. “BedStuy, but I got out of there because I had enough,” he said.

“Did you always live in Brooklyn?” I asked curiously.

“No, I made my way up here from Mississippi with my mom,” he replied.

It was uncanny how I was in the middle of reading a book on families moving and striving for a better life for their young ones and then I encounter a man who’s family has done the same thing. I don’t think I would have had the same amount of curiosity for him and how he grew up if I wasn’t reading this book.

Honestly, everyone should read this book and other diverse books. Homegoing is one of those books that opens my eyes to the reality of the world. It makes me sad that some people can’t trace their ancestry back any further than a few generations. People made sacrifices in order for other people to survive. Some people are lucky enough to have their family heirlooms passed down generation after generation. Others, not so much. I wouldn’t have known that had I not given this book a shot. We read so many novels about the same characters going through the same hardships, so it’s good for readers like us to branch out and learn a little bit more about something we’re not so comfortable with.

This book made me want to call my mother and ask for more information about my family. I want to know my lineage and being an Asian American, it makes me want to connect further with my roots.

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.

I can’t say it any more clearly that people should read books like Homegoing. It will broaden your mind and make you less ignorant of the person standing next to you.