: Gyasi (Y.)

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300pp., paperback, London, (2016) 2017


A novel that begins in eighteenth century Ghana, about two half sisters born in different villages, each unaware of the other. One sister marries an Englishman and leads a comfortable life at Cape Coast Castle while the other is captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the same castle, and sold into slavery. The story follows the paths of the sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, the American Civil War and Jazz Age Harlem.

“Thanks to Ms. Gyasi’s instinctive storytelling gifts, the book leaves the reader with a visceral understanding of both the savage realities of slavery and the emotional damage that is handed down, over the centuries ... By its conclusion, the characters’ tales of loss and resilience have acquired an inexorable and cumulative emotional weight.” The New York Times

"a hugely empathic, unflinching portrayal of west Africa’s role in the transatlantic slave trade...At the centre of each well-crafted, well-researched narrative episode there is a clearly defined and complex protagonist who we come to care deeply about, largely because of the extent of their suffering...Love is the glue that binds these life stories together, the chapters a series of couplings and begettings making way for the next in line. Gyasi’s portrayal of physical love between men and women makes for some of the novel’s most powerful scenes." Diana Evans, The Guardian

Yaa Gyasi was born in 1989 in Ghana. Her family moved to the USA in 1991 and she was raised in Huntsville, Alabama. Homegoing, her debut novel, won the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award for best first book, the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book of fiction, the 2016 National Book Foundation's "5 under 35" honors and the American Book Award. She was awarded a Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature in 2020. She lives in New York City.