Africa, America And Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’

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One African sister is sold as slave to America. One stays in Africa. Celebrated debut novelist Yaa Gyasi compares their descendants’ stories with us. Plus: looking at the new "Roots" miniseries.

A portion of the cover of Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, "Homegoing." (Courtesy Knopf)
A portion of the cover of Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, "Homegoing." (Courtesy Knopf)

Young Ghanaian-American writer Yaa Gyasi’s first novel goes straight at the foundational story of Africa and America, with a twist. Two half-sisters, centuries ago in Africa. One stays in Ghana. One is sold into slavery in America. Then Gyasi follows their descendants down through the generations. Until they meet again, related but also changed. And both sides shaped by the legacy of slavery. This hour On Point, we’ll talk with Yaa Gyasi about her debut novel, “Homegoing.” — Tom Ashbrook


Yaa Gyasi, novelist and author. Her debut novel is "Homegoing."

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR Books: Slavery Scars A Transatlantic Family Tree In 'Homegoing' — "I think one of the huge tragedies of slavery is just the fact that family lines got completely cut off. There are so many characters in this book that, were I to follow them, the story would have been completely different. And the fact that they never get to know their siblings, their parents — they're just completely cut off from certain sides of their family — I think is deeply, deeply sad."

New York Times: Isabel Wilkerson Reviews Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ -- "In the first, magical half of the novel, Gyasi walks assuredly through the terrain of Alex Haley, Solomon ­Northup and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her intimate rendering of the human heart battered by the forces of conquest and history. The spell breaks as the narrative moves into the present and begins to be populated by familiar characters and themes: a single mother who finds solace in the church; a man who chooses to pass into the white world; their son, a drug addict who’s done jail time."

New Yorker: Descendants — "This ambitious form and Gyasi’s determination to scrutinize the participation of West Africans in the Atlantic slave trade are the novel’s chief strengths. Gyasi, who was born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, is twenty-six and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The bolder works of young novelists, like the more stylized performances of aging actors, often look better from a distance than in closeup, where cracks in the foundation start to show. Taken in as a panorama, “Homegoing” can be breathtaking."

Read An Excerpt Of "Homegoing" By Yaa Gyasi

The ‘Roots’ Story Is Back On T.V.

Stephane Dunn, associate professor and director of the cinema, television and emerging media studies program at Morehouse College. Author of the book, "'Baad Bitches' and Sassy Supermamas." (@drstephanedunn)
The Atlantic: Why the Roots Remake Is So Important — "A&E’s Roots confronts this distorted but popular belief that the subject of slavery has not only been covered, but done well, done enough, or even done too much. There continues to be a deep-seated American cultural discomfort with slavery, and neither the financial success of Birth of a Nation at Sundance nor the critical success of Twelve Years a Slave and Underground has yet led to a sustained national discussion and interrogation of this discomfort."

P.S. We’re Launching Our New Site June 9th. See It Now.

This program aired on June 7, 2016.


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