I read Homegoing in March. I wrote my review of Homegoing immediately, in March. A lot has happened since March. A lot has happened that is relevant to the subject matter of Homegoing. I have done a lot of reflecting, a lot of reading, a lot of discussing, and a lot of Work. This book and this review, in some ways, were a turning point in my commitment to truly understanding my own privilege, to educating myself, and to equity and justice. So, instead of rewriting it to reflect all that I have learned since, here it is, exactly as I wrote it in March.
Homegoing Review, March 2020
Let me get the easy part out of the way, Homegoing is absolutely amazing. Yaa Gyasi wrote a phenomenal novel following a family line over centuries, through separation, slavery, loss, death, heartbreak, hope, and everything imaginable. This book rocketed easily into my top ten favorite books ever. From the first chapter, I was completely hooked and desperate to find out what would happen in the next generation. I am not a professional book reviewer, so I’m not going to pretend to be able to talk about why her writing is excellent – all I know is it was beautiful and compelling, and I would’ve happily continued to read were it double the length.
Now the hard part. The part where I admit that, for as much as I educate myself and try to do the right thing as far as equality and race are concerned… this book woke me right up. Let me be clear: I am fully aware of my own privilege, I completely understand the challenges faced by people of color today, I am obviously aware of and educated about the history of people of color and racism in this country. And I know how the history affects the present. But I don’t think I had ever spent enough time thinking about how the history and the present intersect and affect individual people. And here’s how it happened while reading Homegoing.
While reading the chapter about Jo, I got a little frustrated and thought to myself, “but what actually happened to Ness? And what happened to Esi? I wish she finished out their stories before moving on to the next generation.” And then it hit me. I am frustrated because I don’t know what happened to people in a work of fiction. But for generation after generation, REAL HUMAN PEOPLE didn’t know what happened to their family in generations before them. A mother may never see her child again. A child may have no idea if their father is still alive. Over and over and over again. It turned my stomach. I can’t imagine that kind of pain. The depth of that sorrow. That incredible loss of self and history. So here I am, head hung low, ashamed that my privilege has blinded me to this for 35+ years, but glad that my eyes have been opened now, albeit late.
Yaa Gyasi, I can’t wait to read more from you. Transcendent Kingdom is next on my list.