First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captures in a raid of her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.
Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem, Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed – and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.
It’s the last day of the week (finally!). It also means one thing – it’s time for the a first impression Friday. But before I start on this post, I want to greet everyone a very Happy Valentines, may you be single, in a relationship, married, or what not. Do always know that someone, somewhere cares for you and loves you. Love comes in different forms.
Now, it’s time to talk about my current read. Published in 2016, Homegoing is Ghanaian-American author, Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel. Ever since its publication, it got a lot of positive feedback from many a literary pundit. It has also earned Gyasi a score of accolades. All of these did not go unnoticed, on my point of view. After reading many positive reviews of the book, I resolved to read it as well. Four years since its publication, it forms part of my 2020 African Literature Month.
Homegoing starts in the Asante and Fante Kingdoms of Ghana where two half sisters were separated due to circumstances beyond their control. One sister grows in comfort while one grows into slavery. The story then follows the story of their descendants, from the hinterlands of Africa to the mining areas of Alabama, USA and to the urban jungle of Harlem, New York City.
From one generation to another, the novel is related through a third-person point-of-view and touches base with a cauldron of themes and subjects that include colonialism, racial discrimination, and the slave trade. There are also cultural milestones which were exemplified in the story. Such cultural milestones – like fetishism and witchcraft – are often taken together with stories of Africa.
It was a challenge, at first, getting pleasurable pace as the story jumps from one person to another. The transition, more often than not, were crude and abrupt. However, as the story progresses, I got used to these transitions. Once I got over this challenge, the story started to unfold and reminds me why I love family sagas. Although, this time around, it was a little short. Maybe the brevity will work out to the story’s advantage in the end.
The family saga is also laced with elements of history. History made an interesting backdrop for the novel, enriching it further. What I am still looking forward to is how the half-sister’s individual stories will converge eventually; their stories diverged from the start. Both sisters possess a black stone given to them by their mother but it got lost in the story line as their descendants’ stories were related. I wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly springs out at the tail end of the story.
Despite the challenge and the obscurities, I love the context and the way the story was related – it was straightforward with a couple of eye-opening episodes every now and then. Gyasi’s writing is a step away from the Nigerian author’s witty and humorous writing and the Egyptian author’s satirical pieces. Rather, her storytelling reminds me of a fusion of the standard American writing and of her roots. I am truly immersed in the story and I hope that the conclusion will live up to the rest of the story.
How about you fellow reader? What book are you reading this weekend? I hope you get to enjoy it as well. Happy weekend reading everyone!