Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: A Book Worth a Million Reads

Last spring, I decided to enroll in Dr. Colleen Clemens’ “Women Writers Around the World” for this current fall semester. I had heard that the class material would flow really well with what I want to study, and the title of the class alone piqued my interest. Little did I know that this class would change so many aspects of my education, and even my life, for the better.

I borrowed the books for this class from a friend; all save for one. Out of all the books required for the class, I had to purchase Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. At a glance, I had no idea what it was about, and for weeks it sat on my shelf collecting dust. Finally, we started reading it, and I was completely blown away. This book has so much in terms of representation; there are stories of women, men, love, gay love, hardship, suffering, and injustice all within this one novel. I won't say too much more about the plot because I don't want to spoil anyone who's not read it. I still have yet to finish the novel myself, but even from the three fourths or so that I've read, I can confidently say that this is a must-read book. A good number of HerCampus writers are in Dr. Clemens' class with me, and I can guarantee that all of them will back me up on saying that all of you NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.

Gyasi’s own experience as an immigrant from Ghana who grew up in America is emblematic of the story she portrayed in Homegoing. Her life is a testament to the hundreds of years of history of the African diaspora and how, with an understanding of post-colonial experience, we can catch a glimpse into the past of those who often had their voices stolen from them. This novel may be a "story," but that doesn’t make it any less true. Maame, Effia, and Esi were not able to tell us theirs or their descendants’ stories on their own, so Gyasi told us for them. She made us see the very real pain that those who suffered at the hands of European slavers and colonizers felt, and then guided us into understanding why we are where we are in the present.

You could argue that this story is perfect as an introduction to post-colonial literary theory, because every aspect of this book is representative of that reality. For me, it has been foundational in allowing me to make broader connections to stories that are not my own, which has in turn made me a better human being. Understanding our shared humanity and having empathy with the stories of others is, to me, the most important thing for us to do, both as human beings, and as students. With this template, I have been better able to understand other instances of colonially imposed suffering, such as the stories of women in Iran that Dr. Clemens’ assigned for us are emblematic of this.

In the end, Dr. Clemens’ class helped me decide to minor in women’s and gender studies, but Homegoing helped me better understand why I needed to. It helped me see the connections between gender, race, and oppression. It helped me connect my conception of history to the reality of suffering and injustice. This story is not your typical history book, but it is written like history should be; it is written in a way that brings human experience out of abstraction and into the limelight, and that is why you need to read it.