Or…how I devoured 200 pages of a book in a day so that I could gush about it at book club the next day.
Published: June 7th, 2016
Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books, Read The Books You Buy
This could be a book you just won’t be able to put down. This could also be a book filled with so many triggers for you that you’re going to need to take your time with it. This book is goddamn beautiful is what it is.
The book follows the families of two half-sisters, Esi and Effia, born in two different villages in Ghana in the eighteenth century. Effia is married to a British dude as part of negotiations between the white people and the African villages(hello, colonization) and Esi is captured and held prisoner in the dungeons of the very same castle, and is shipped off to America to be sold as a slave (hello, more colonization).
Each chapter focuses on a member of each of the two family trees, in chronological order, across generations, with each story set in very specific moments in the history of African and African-American people. Wars in Ghana, slavery, colonization, coal mines in the South, more slavery, the Great Migration, Civil rights movements, etc.
Gyasi takes no prisoners. Her writing and her research are both, so impressive. Just the evolving nature of slavery and the treatment of women over time, evoked so many feelings for me. It was raw, and sucker-punching. I also really enjoyed the structure of the book, because I will devour a story juxtaposed in actual historical moments any day. Smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse. Her depictions of each of the characters, especially the resilient women who will do what they need to do to survive, are just so powerful. Fuck, women never get enough credit. As for how the book ends, based on the description, it wasn’t surprising for me at all, and it didn’t affect my experience of the book, so I definitely didn’t knock it down for that. I think I would’ve been a little disappointed if it hadn’t ended that way.
This might not be an easy book to read. As a non-black WOC, my experience reading this is most certainly not going to be the same as a Black WOC. My friend D, who is also currently reading the book, is definitely processing it slowly and differently. If you must read a multi-generational family saga, this should be the one. Beautiful, sad, and superbly crafted, I couldn’t recommend it enough.