A hard book to read, yet one that should be essential reading, Homegoing follows the family lines of two half-sisters in Africa, one of whom marries an English man and stays in Africa, and one of whom is sent to America as a slave. Each chapter (after the initial two) is from the point of view of a different descendant of each and set in a different time period. In this manner, Gyasi manages to encapsulate 300 years of African & African-American history in one novel. The prose is easy to read, and the stories are engaging. However, they aren’t always easy to read.
Many things in the stories were educational for me. While I’m admittedly familiar with some history of slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, I was unaware of things like black men being arrested just to be re-enslaved as miners after slavery was supposedly ended. I also didn’t have a very good grasp on African colonial history. While learning more about such a history of mistreatment wasn’t easy at times, I feel this was an important book to read to learn it. After reading this novel, I know just how much I have to learn about my own country as well as international history. Reading it in novel form also gave you a person to relate to in each era, allowing you to fully experience the tension that came with each story, whether with larger society or within families.
The book also made very good points about racism, history, and weakness versus strength. As a sampling, here are some of my favorite quotes:
“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
“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.”
“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?”
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand these truths about history, especially the history we learn in our schools. History is written from one point of view, and it is important to know that. What I really appreciated about this book was that it gave me a different point of view to explore, and it will be the jumping off point for even more discovery.
Recommend: Yes, should be required reading
Rating: 5 stars