Review: Homegoing

Rating: 5 Stars

“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.”

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the kind of book that leaves its mark on the reader. It spans centuries and generations in only 300 pages. It reminded me so much of Alex Haley’s Roots, in that it takes your heart and shatters it into pieces. Of course, while Roots is like a full length movie, Homegoing is more like snapshots of a family’s journey through the centuries. It reads like fourteen short stories connected together by a familial thread.

I come from a country which used to be a British colony, and our history books are full of how the colonists came and exploited our resources and ruled us for centuries. Every kid knows of their atrocities and injustices. Yet, we can never even imagine the havoc they wreaked on Africa. The echoes of their evil are still heard all over the world, and the Africans are still paying for crimes committed centuries before they were even born.

Homegoing starts off as the story of two sisters, born from the same mother, who never meet in their lifetime, and whose destinies are as as different as night and day. One marries a white man, a slave trader, while the other becomes a slave. One stays in Africa, where her descendents struggle with their identity, while one is taken to America, where her descendents struggle to stay alive. As their stories play out, you are given a glimpse into American history itself.

The prose is beautiful, some lines so profound, that you have to come back and read them again and again.

“The need to call this thing ‘good’ and this thing ‘bad,’ this thing ‘white’ and this thing ‘black,’ was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”

As one side of the family is challenged by the changes taking place in Africa, it is the other side, the slaves, who are going through trials that no human being should have to face. Yet, all characters are unique individuals, who fight their own battles and face their own challenges. You are shown many faces of bravery, many forms of resilience, and underneath it all, the strength of charcater and the will to change things for themselves and their children.

Even though the book ends on a hopeful note, it is heartbreaking to realize that things haven’t changed all that much over the centuries. The colour of your skin still makes a difference, and where you come from still matters. This book has left me with a heavy heart and a real sadness about how human race has failed to learn from the past.

I think this book is a must read for everyone.

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