Published by Knopf on June 7th 2016
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“Jo used to worry that his family line had been cut off, lost forever He would never truly know who his people were, and who their people were, and who their people were before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them.”
Homegoing is a little book really. Three hundred and five pages, but it contains so much information about the generations of family members from two sisters, that this book feels BIG. The family members are spread across two continents and their stories are told from mid 18th century Ghana to the present day. The generations experience the British Colonization of Ghana, the slave trade, slavering in the American South, the Civil War, Jim Crow south, the great migration to the northern states, mines, drugs and jazz clubs.
Effia and Esi are half sisters who grew up in different villages in Ghana. Effia is considered to be a great beauty and is raised by her Aunt. She is promised to a tribal chief but when he is tricked into believing she can’t bear children, her step mother marries her off to a British man involved in the slave trade. She lives a very comfortable life in the Cape Coast Castle. She forms friendships with the other wives and later gives birth to a son. Esi is captured during a battle and is taken to the Cape Coast Castle where she is kept in the dungeon with the other slaves. Eventually she is put on a slave boat and sent to American where she will live the rest of her days a slave. Both women do not know the location of the other. Both are bound together by blood but separated by circumstance.
But this book is not just about these two women. It is also about the generations of family members. Those on Effia’s side who remain in Ghana and those on Esi’s side who live in the United States. I did appreciate the family history chart in the beginning of the book. Each subsequent chapter in the book is about a family member of each of the women. At times it was helpful to look back and see who was a descendant of who. Obviously in most cases it was easy depending on what continent the person lived on but in some cases that is not revealed right away, so I found it helpful to look back. The telling of each person’s individual story was powerful and poignant. We get little glimpses into a life before moving on to the next family member. There is also not only the passing down of family heirlooms but the oral history that is passed down as well.
In reading this book, I was in awe that this was a debut novel. It was a well thought out labor of lo