First-Year Read Author Speaks with Blue and Grey on Homegoing

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By Laura Spencer

“Confidence is necessary,” shared newly published author and recipient of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” award during her First-Year Read visit at Hood.

Yaa Gyasi published her debut novel Homegoing in June 2016 and the First-Year Read committee selected it as this year’s book in the annual program.

First-Year Read allows incoming freshmen to share a connection through reading one book the summer before they begin their semester. The book is discussed from orientation up until the author visits the campus.

Homegoing is the story of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are from different villages in Ghana. The story follows seven generations of their descendants, and their emotional experiences of slavery.

Following through the generations in this novel allows readers to gain multiple perspectives on slavery, rather than focusing on a single period in history. “The structure allowed me to talk about the many ways in which we continue to be affected by the legacy of slavery,” Gyasi said.

In addition to the story capturing multiple generations of slavery, the story also contrasts the differences between slavery in transatlantic slave trade and slavery taking place in Ghana. Gyasi said it is important to “tell a full story” about slavery.

A 2009 trip to Ghana where she stood in dungeons in the Cape Coast Castle inspired her to write this novel, Gyasi said. There were extreme differences between the dungeons where slaves would have been kept in this castle and the upper levels of the castle.

“Read as much as possible,” Gyasi said. She encourages beginning writers to read “beyond what you can do.”

Since Gyasi’s debut novel has been published, she is unsure if there have been any changes in her writing. “I suppose each thing you write requires something new of you,” said Gyasi. “I can’t imagine any two books being the same stylistically.”

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