Homegoing - April 2021 Book Group Discussion Thread

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May 2021
8:25pm, 2 May 2021
5,079 posts
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westmoors
Thanks Scribbs for recommending this. I don't think I would have read it otherwise.

I liked the format, although did question whether the time frame was really covered by the ?seven? generations. Wished some of the chapters were longer. I was not surprised when the two lineages met, but probably would have preferred them not to.

I gave it an 8.
May 2021
4:40pm, 9 May 2021
845 posts
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Peregrinator
Homegoing

When considering The Line Of Beauty, I wondered if readers have obligations to authors. Which was prompted by a piece written by Yaa Gyasi:

theguardian.com

So when The Scribbler then chose Homegoing I felt I was being tested.

I haven't experienced 180 days of well meaning white people asking me questions which reflected a superficial engagement with issues that I feel are key, but I can't help feeling that there are worse things to do to a book than buy it and not read it. And salving consciences at least suggests there is a conscience to be salved. But that the slave trade, and its after effects, are still current 400 years later, is depressing and tragic.

So before reading Homegoing there was some background research. My limited school education in History did cover the 18th century triangle of trade between Britain, the West Coast of Africa and the Americas, even if the ending of slavery was presented as something that the enlightened white people gave to the enslaved black people, along with the English Language, Christianity and Parliamentary Democracy. There is a You're Dead to Me program that whizzes through some of the history of the Asante (though Greg Jennner's relentless right-on-ness sets my teeth on edge):

bbc.co.uk

What's clear is the importance of cultural continuity from the Gold Coast to independent Ghana. So keeping the Golden Stool (Sika Dwa Kofi) from the British governors (who wanted to present it to Queen Victoria) was of core significance for the Asante people. The idea of continuity through generations and translocations is central to Homegoing. It is hard to imagine reading Homegoing without knowing at least the outline of the history. The story is told as a series of short fragments that have to be fitted together, and the missing parts inferred by the reader; to follow two branches of a family through history. The two strands initially diverge by chance, but are then pulled apart by global events. The fragments let you examine familiar and unfamiliar aspects of history as they affected black people. One thing I was unaware of was that into the 20th Century, the US convict leasing system allowed Southern courts to imprison people on minor or trumped up charges and effectively enslave them for work in private coal mines. These powers were disproportionately applied to exploit Black people:

calendar.eji.org

The structure of short separate chapters does allow the book to cover a lot of time and events economically. The risk is that you never get to know the characters, but I found there was enough continuity to make them interesting. The joining together of the two lines at the end is perhaps a bit too neat.

I'm not sure if I meet Yaa Gyasi's expectations of her readers - or maybe I do. It was an experience of enlightenment rather than medicine.
May 2021
4:59pm, 9 May 2021
846 posts
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Peregrinator
Hmmmm - how "should" the book have ended?
Nov 2021
1:30pm, 26 Nov 2021
12,640 posts
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Little Nemo
Very late review!

I liked the author's style of writing. There were lots of beautiful passages but also lots of harrowing and depressing parts. I had some idea of how the slave trade operated in Africa but it was very interesting to have this viewpoint.

I did struggle with keeping track of everyone and remembering who was related to who. As in some ways this is a collection of short stories I felt that it just gave a brief glimpse into these people's lives and I wanted to spend longer with some of them. But then it would have been a much longer book that I probably wouldn't have tried.

I liked the ending although I did guess it would end up with the 2 descendants meeting. It gave some hope which was a good way to finish.

I gave this book a 7.
Nov 2021
3:00pm, 26 Nov 2021
51,090 posts
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LindsD
Thank you :)

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Maintained by McGoohan
Here will be the discussion for Yaa Gyasi's novel Homegoing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjHksjW4XQk


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