Yaa Gyasi's debut novel
Homegoing is an inspiration and one of the most powerful books I've read. It's not hard for me to get wrapped up in a book, but there was something more about it that drew me in. This was one of those books that I picked up on a Thursday and finished by that Sunday

Homegoing tells the story of the descendants of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who were born in 18th century Ghana but never knew one another. In Ghana, Effia’s descendants become partners in the Atlantic slave trade and make deals with the European nations while they slowly colonize the country. Esi gets sold into slavery in America, and we see her descendants struggle through the Civil War to the Great Migration to the present day

I felt connected with this book not only because Gyasi is a great storyteller, but because of the theme of family history. Ever since I was a little girl, I've always been into my own genealogy. My grandmother and mother made sure that I knew the name of every great, great-great, and great-great-great grandparent I had, and showed me the pictures so I'd never forget. I'm fortunate enough to be able to trace my family roots as far back as the early 1800's, but being a black person in America makes this situation extremely rare

My family comes from a tiny town in Texas, and I use the word "town" loosely. It's only a small speck on the map. My ancestors were born in various parts of Alabama and Mississippi, but came to Texas as slaves (of course). My great (x3) grandfather was given A LOT of land by his white father (who he was named after), and for the next 100+ years my family never left. I know this from stories that have been passed down to me, land deeds my grandparents have copies of, family reunion booklets, dates on tombstones in the "black" cemetery and census records. Thank you Ancestry.com!
Photo: giphy
Photo: Giphy
What I love most is the way Gyasi crafts her story around a family lineage. With each chapter, she goes down the family tree and gives you a brief glimpse into each life, leaving you wanting more each time. The characters in Homegoing
suffer from generational trauma thanks to slavery and racist laws/practices carried out before and after the Civil War. There's so much lost yet so much gained in her story, and reading it has led me to three conclusions:
  1. Family heritage is more than just names on a paper to me. This isn't really a new conclusion, but reading Homegoing solidified it. Intergenerational and historical trauma truly exist, and the fears and anxieties of a family (or community) can affect future generations to come.
  2. I'm going to trace my DNA. I think it's so cool that there are companies out there now that will allow you to trace your DNA. I have a couple of friends who've done it, so now I'm going to do it too. Who knows what I'll find?
  3. I want to turn my family story into a book. Years ago, a cousin of mind made a book about our family tree. It's an extended version of the tree with pictures and brief biographies of practically everybody since 1850. Now, I want to do the same thing for the other side of my family. Another cousin of mine and I have collected photos and records for most of our lives just for fun. The idea to create something tangible has swirled in our heads since Finding Your Roots aired on PBS. It's now time to put in work and create something to pass along to others. That will be our family legacy.
I picked up this book on a whim, and I'm so happy I did. It's given me just the push I needed to bring a goal (that I didn't even realize was a goal) into fruition. I admit my fascination with this stuff isn't shared with most people, but even if you're not destined to become your family's genealogist,
Homegoing is an excellent read for everyone.