“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely on the words of others.”
Some books stick with you because the stories are wonderfully written. Others are unforgettable because the story needs to be told. Homegoing is a book that fits both of these categories. The story starts a long time ago in Africa when two half-sisters are separated by tribal warfare in Africa and one is sold into slavery while the other stays on the continent. It then follows their offspring on both shores, showing how slavery affected those enslaved and those who were left behind.
A friend of mine highly recommended this book, so I chose it for the June Online Book Club. I really liked this book, although emotionally, parts of it were hard to read. History can be like that, though. We must know the terrible parts of history, along with the victories and achievements. To know the background of how the slave trade started puts it as a worldwide tragedy, not something limited to America or Africa or Europe. I think the way the story was told was captivating. To create a character in each time period to show how slavery affected the sisters’ lines through time will make me remember this story for a long time.
“I will be my own nation.” – Akosua
My favorite moment was when Akosua said this to James. She had strength and courage to take her destiny into her own hands. She took a chance to wait for James and start a new life. My least favorite part was the description of life at The Castle for the Africans both above and below. It was hard to read about the dungeons. The “wives” of the Europeans were only married to them to make the men feel slightly better about cheating on their wives while in Africa. James and Akosua are my favorite characters. They took their futures into their own hands, even though it was a hard life. James was given a name that didn’t fit him, so he didn’t feel like he fit into the life that was laid out for him. Akosua gave him the thought of leaving and when he saw an opportunity to start a new life, he took it. It would have been hard at the point in time to do anything other than what was expected of you, yet they took a chance.
I learned more about how life in African villages was during the slave trade. The British and Europeans coming to Africa had a ripple affect on the entire continent. Wars were provoked to get more “prisoners” to sell. It seems they wanted to keep the unrest alive and didn’t want the continent to have peace. The book starts with the two sisters in Africa and ends with their two descendants back in the same area. I think Homegoing is in reference to them coming back to the place of their ancestors, which came about because of Marjorie’s grandmother dying. It’s interesting that they end up in the ocean when it’s mentioned that the ocean floor is the burial ground of many Africans.
I would recommend this book to any adult who loves historical fiction, but can deal with reading the hard parts of history. The book is for adults as death, slavery, brutality, rape, kidnapping and racism are part of the stories.
Have you read Homegoing? Did you like it? Who was your favorite character?