Author of Homegoing and Transcendent Kingdom, and recipient of the National Book Foundation's 'Under 35' award
About Yaa Gyasi
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, Yaa 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.
Her stunning follow-up novel, Transcendent Kingdom, is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama. Transcendent Kingdom was an instant New York Times bestseller.
Born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Yaa 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.
Homegoing and and Transcendent Kingdom
An Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate, Gyasi reflects on the personal experiences that inspired her to write her breathtaking debut novel Homegoing and her acclaimed follow-up Transcendent Kingdom, 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
Yaa’s visit was great and just what we were hoping for. Both events were perfectly tailored to the audience attending and the book signings and all else went great. Yaa is a true pleasure to host!— College of St. Scholastica
What I saw and heard from Yaa was nothing short of extraordinary — which I knew it would be. I continue to receive texts, phone calls, and emails this morning with glowing comments about last night’s event. I think we’re now dubbing our 2021 theme as ‘Yay for Yaa!’ Thank you both SO MUCH for your help and flexibility these past few months. You both have been a dream to work with. Please extend my thanks to Yaa and give her my best!! She was a delight, and everyone LOVED her.— Omaha Public Library Foundation
Yaa was amazing, and exceptionally thoughtful in her conversation with our moderator and the student questions. Moreover, I wanted to extend my gratitude for all your efforts and support over the past months. We couldn’t have pulled it off without you!— Northeastern University
Yaa was just such an absolute pleasure! My students were just in awe of her kindness and wisdom, and today they are working on their Homegoing projects, and it’s so wonderful to hear them quoting Yaa from the Q&A and citing some of her responses as inspiration for their creative writing. I can’t thank you and Yaa enough for making these events possible.— Hopkins School
I just wanted to let you know how extraordinary Yaa was yesterday, both in the small group sessions and the larger event in the evening. She has a wonderful touch with young people—patient, affirming, respectful, and warm. She gave generously of her time and wisdom, leaving us all wanting more but also with so much to think about. We are full of gratitude. Thank you for your work to make her visit such an overwhelming success.— St. Andrew’s School
Yaa was a dream guest for us – warm, thoughtful, deeply introspective of her writing process and generous in her discussion of her work. We were particularly thrilled with her kind responses during the audience Q&A on subjects ranging from her family life, writing routines, and favorite authors! She’s a true literary star and we were hanging from her every word.— Hennepin County Library
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 Transcendent Kingdom
Yaa Gyasi’s profoundly moving second novel takes place in the vast, fragile landscape where the mysteries of God and the certainties of science collide. Through deliberate and precise prose, the book becomes an expansive meditation on grief, religion, and family.— The Boston Globe
Laser-like... A powerful, wholly unsentimental novel about family love, loss, belonging and belief that is more focused but just as daring as its predecessor, and to my mind even more successful… [Transcendent Kingdom] is burningly dedicated to the question of meaning… The pressure created gives her novel a hard, beautiful, diamantine luster.— Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
A luminous, heartbreaking and redemptive American story, Transcendent Kingdom is the mark of a brilliant writer who is just getting started.”— Seattle Times
If you read one book this year, make it Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom.— Pop Sugar
A book of blazing brilliance... a novel of profound scientific and spiritual reflection that recalls the works of Richard Powers and Marilynne Robinson... A double helix of wisdom and rage twists through the quiet lines...Thank God, we have this remarkable novel.— Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Poised to be the literary event of the fall.— Entertainment Weekly
Unforgettable... Transcendent Kingdom has an expansive scope that ranges into fresh, relevant territories—much like the title, which suggests a better world beyond the life we inhabit.— BookPage (starred review)
Gyasi’s wise second novel pivots toward intimacy… In precise prose, Gyasi creates an ache of recognition, especially for readers knowledgeable about the wreckage of addiction. Still, she leavens this nonlinear novel with sly humor… The author is astute about childhood grandiosity and a pious girl’s deep desire to be good; she conveys in brief strokes the notched, nodding hook of heroin’s oblivion…final chapter that gives readers a taste of hard-won deliverance.— Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
I would say that Transcendent Kingdom is a novel for our time (and it is) but it is so much more than that. It is a novel for all times. The splendor and heart and insight and brilliance contained in the pages holds up a light the rest of us can follow.— Ann Patchett
With deft agility and undeniable artistry, Gyasi’s latest is an eloquent examination of resilient survival.— Booklist
Meticulous, psychologically complex...At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts.— Publishers Weekly [starred review]
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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- Yaa Gyasi travels from New York, NY
“Absolutely transcendent. A gorgeously woven narrative about a woman trying to survive the grief of a brother lost to addiction and a mother trapped in depression while pursuing her ambitions. Not a word or idea out of place. Completely different from Homegoing. THE RANGE. I am quite angry this is so good.” —Roxane Gay