Debut novelist of Homegoing and recipient of the National Book Foundation's 'Under 35' award
Photo credit: Michael Lionstar
About Yaa Gyasi
Debut novelist Yaa Gyasi is the author of Homegoing, one of the most celebrated debuts of 2016. A riveting, kaleidoscopic novel, Homegoing is a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America. An important new literary voice, Gyasi’s writing has been praised by National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates as “an inspiration” and “what happens when you pair a gifted literary mind to an epic task.” In September 2016, she was chosen by Coates as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees. Personable and intimate, Gyasi’s lectures explore contemporary craft, cultural identity, and the complex racial landscape of America’s past and present.
Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery. Homegoing stretches from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration and twentieth-century Harlem. A powerful and emotional American novel about race and history, this is truly a book for our times.
Born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Gyasi is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and lives in Berkeley, California. She is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Homegoing also was a winner at the 2017 Audie Awards.
An Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate, Gyasi reflects on the personal experiences that inspired her to write her breathtaking debut novel Homegoing, as well as the craft and research involved in her writing process.
Identity and the African Diaspora
Born in Ghana and raised in Alabama, Gyasi interweaves history, current events, and her own experiences to explore the complexities and intersections of African immigrant and African-American identities in the United States today.
Praise for Yaa Gyasi
Everything went exceptionally well, and there is still a buzz at the Foundation about the event. People thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and Yaa was so gracious, kind, accommodating and relatable. She truly left an impression on the Foundation community and on our president who made time out of his schedule to come by to personally say hello and thank Yaa. Many people have also said it was the best event of the year—and one retiree sent me an email, that it was the best and most fulfilling event of his 15 year tenure at the Foundation.— Yvonne Darkwa-Poku, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Praise for Homegoing
Tremendous…spectacular…[Homegoing is] essential reading from a young writer whose stellar instincts, sturdy craftsmanship and penetrating wisdom seem likely to continue apace — much to our good fortune as readers.— The San Francisco Chronicle
[A] commanding debut . . . will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. When people talk about all the things fiction can teach its readers, they’re talking about books like this.— Steph Opitz, Marie Claire
Rarely does a grand, sweeping epic plumb interior lives so thoroughly. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is a marvel.— Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
The hypnotic debut novel by Yaa Gyasi, a stirringly gifted writer . . . magical . . . the great, aching gift of the novel is that it offers, in its own way, the very thing that enslavement denied its descendants: the possibility of imagining the connection between the broken threads of their origins.— Isabel Wilkerson, The New York Times Book Review
...a narrative that is earnest, well-crafted yet not overly self-conscious, marvelous without being precious...Yaa Gyasi has given rare and heroic voice to the missing and suppressed.— NPR
Gyasi’s characters are so fully realized, so elegantly carved—very often I found myself longing to hear more. Craft is essential given the task Gyasi sets for herself—drawing not just a lineage of two sisters but two related peoples. Gyasi is deeply concerned with the sin of selling humans on Africans, not Europeans. But she does not scold. She does not excuse. And she does not romanticize. The black Americans she follows are not overly virtuous victims. Sin comes in all forms, from selling people to abandoning children. I think I needed to read a book like this to remember what is possible. I think I need to remember what happens when you pair a gifted literary mind to an epic task. Homegoing is an inspiration.— Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Award winning author of Between the World and Me
Homegoing is a remarkable feat—a novel at once epic and intimate, capturing the moral weight of history as it bears down on individual struggles, hopes, and fears. A tremendous debut.— Phil Klay, National Book Award winning author of Redeployment
Books by Yaa Gyasi
Media About Yaa Gyasi
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“[Toni Morrison’s] influence is palpable in Gyasi’s historicity and lyricism; she shares Morrison’s uncanny ability to crystalize, in a single event, slavery’s moral and emotional fallout. What is uniquely Gyasi’s is her ability to connect it so explicitly to the present day: No novel has better illustrated the way in which racism became institutionalized in this country.” —Megan O'Grady, Vogue