Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Book 9: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This has already been reviewed (at least) twice on this blog, so I feel like I can get away with a shorter review here. There's also precious little left to say; Homegoing is an amazing achievement. The structure, the scope, the maturity, the fact that Gyasi is a first-time novelist. Homegoing will be remembered, and taught, for decades to come, and she's 26. My mind reels.

I'll touch on just a few of my personal highlights. The machinations of imperialism are treated as well here as anywhere I've ever seen. The early chapters recall Things Fall Apart, but Gyasi's focus on the experience of women opens new horrors that have rarely been mentioned as explicitly in other accounts. The omnipresence of rape, for instance, made me think of the banality of evil, again and again. As the story shifts to America, the absence of the Civil War is fascinating. One of my favorite podcasts is Backstory, which focuses on American history in order to explain the America we live in today. The Civil War is constantly held as the major changing point in American history; in Homegoing, it is a passing reference at best, because, honestly, what is the difference between chattel slavery and the mass incarceration that puts H in the mines of Alabama for what is, at best, a misdemeanor offense?

The H chapter moved me more than any other. As a teacher, Homegoing just constantly thrilled me with its classroom possibilities. It could - and very likely will be - a semester-long class. There is just so much room to bring in other readings, other concepts, sprouting off of every single chapter. Honestly, there just aren't enough good things to say about this book.

So I'll end with a really pedestrian note: Gyasi's ability to create such fully realized characters, each in the space of about 20 pages (seriously, the chapters are super consistent in length), is incredible.

I will also brag that I read the physical book, and, yes, the family tree was super-useful.


Brent Waggoner said...

Look at the fancy guy with a paper book.

Chloe Pinkerton said...

Can you slow down please? You're making me look bad!