This quote comes from Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing. Published 2016 to critical acclaim, Homegoing follows the lives of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi. Unknown to each other, the two sisters fall into divergent lives: one marries a European slaver, and one is captured and made a slave.
The story bounces between the descendants of these two half-sisters, from the slave trade in Africa to the coal mines in Alabama and the NAACP. Each chapter follows a new character to give a detailed family history over nearly 250 years.
Some characters are more complex and interesting than others, and many critics praise the telling of the West African descendants more than that of the African American ones. As The New York Times Book Review puts it:
Still, 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.
“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing?, Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
-Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing