Martin's Must Reads: 'Homegoing'

Feb 2, 2021

“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that is the Akan proverb which Yaa Gyasi uses to begin her novel Homegoing.

The story gives us a glimpse into three hundred years of black history and the injustices perpetrated on people with dark skin. It follows the family history of two half sisters who were born into two different villages in Ghana in the eighteen century. One is married to a British soldier and the other is sold into slavery and taken to America.

The novel follows their descendants through warfare in Ghana, the slave trade, British colonization, Southern plantations, the Civil War, the Great Migration, the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, the jazz clubs, the dope houses of twentieth century Harlem and up to present day.

Now more than ever it is important for this novel to be read. It helps us understand why so many cry out that “Black Lives Matter” because for three hundred years they have not. One of the characters, H, is sentenced to ten years mining coal after being falsely accused of looking at a white woman. The foreman of the mine didn’t worry if the work killed the workers...he could just find more. Black lives didn’t matter.

The book jacket says “Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters who lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control.”

If you’re seeking to understand why “Black Lives Matter” is a long overdue issue, then you must read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.