One of the most anticipated books of this summer is from debut novelist Yaa Gyasi, and all it will take to convince you the hype is worth it is reading some of these powerful Homegoing quotes about family, identity, and history. An emotional, beautiful, and remarkable book, Homegoing should definitely be on your summer reading list.
A novel that spans generations and takes readers from the Gold Coast of Ghana to the plantations of the American South to hot Harlem night clubs and back again, Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing starts with the story of two half sisters living in the same place, but going through wildly different experiences. After leaving her village to be wed to a white man, Effia lives in Cape Coast Castle with her Englishman husband who gives her a life of privilege and comfort. Unknown to her, though, her half sister, Esi, is imprisoned in the very same castle, waiting to be sold into slavery. From these two women, a captivating family history is born — one, in Ghana where slavery, warfare, and colonization threaten the survival of entire nations, and another, in America where children are born into slavery, where racism is a part of life, right up to the present day.
With characters you won't be able to forget, and stories that will haunt you long after you turn the last page, Homegoing is stunning — a truly heartbreaking work of literary genius. It honestly and elegantly tries to unravel the complicated history of not only a family through the generations, but a nation through the years of outside conflict, inner turmoil, and one of the darker pieces of the past.
In case you aren't convinced, here are 11 powerful quotes from Homegoing about identity, family, and history that will blow you away.
1. "He had always said that the joining of a man and a woman was also the joining of two families. Ancestors, whole histories, came with the act, but so did the sins and the curses. The children were the embodiment of that unity, and they bore the brunt of it all."
2. “You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
3. "Esi learned to split her life into Before the Castle and Now. Before the Castle, she was the daughter of Big Man and his third wife, Maame. Now she was dust. Before the Castle, she was the prettiest girl in the village. Now she was just thin air."
4. "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 before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them. When he felt this way, Ma Aku would hold him against her, and instead of stories about family she would tell him stories about nations. The Fantes of the Coast, the Asantes of the Inland, the Akans.
When he lay against this woman now, he knew he belonged to someone, and that had once been enough for him."
5. “Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home."
6. "I am proud to be Asante, as I am sure you are proud to be Fante, but after I lost my brothers, I decided that as for me, Akosua, I will be my own nation.”
7. “The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”
8. "She thought of the act of picking cotton as she had since the day she saw Sam's head, like a prayer. With a bend, she said, 'Lord forgive me and my sins.' With a pluck, she said 'Deliver us from evil.' And with the lift, she said, 'And protect my son, wherever he may be.'"
9. “A little black child fighting in her sleep against an opponent she couldn't name come morning because in the light that opponent just looked like the world around her. Intangible evil. Unspeakable unfairness. Beulah ran in her sleep, ran like she'd stolen something, when really she had done nothing other than expect the peace, the clarity, that came with dreaming. Yes, Jo thought, this was where it started, but when, where, did it end?”
10. "Now Willie sang the anthem, and the crowd watched, beaming. She imagined that the sound came from a cave at the very bottom of her gut, that like her father and all the men in front of her, she was a miner reaching deep down inside of her to pull something valuable out. When she finished, everyone in the room stood and clapped and whistled, and that was how she knew she had reached the rock at the bottom of the cave."
11. "There was almost no one milling around the Castle that day, save for a few women who were gathered around a very old tree, eating nuts and plaiting each other's hair. They looked at Marcus and Marjorie as the two of them walked up, but they didn't move. Marcus started to wonder if he was reallt seeing them in the flesh. If ever there was a place to believe was haunted, this was it."
Images: Sadie Trombetta; Wikimedia Commons; Luca Zanon, Anna Louise/Unsplash