Saturday, 30 December 2017
HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
I am however I find curiously unmoved by the book, and I can't quite think why. First, perhaps there is something about it that seems a little too facile. The American stories in particular did sometimes read a bit like a well-behaved walk through key moments of African-American history: picking cotton, being unjustly imprisoned, doing heroin, etc. I suspect the author may be young, and might have an undergraduate degree if African-American lit or history.
Second, I was sort of taken aback by the turn the African stories took. As I began I was interested to see how the author in the twentieth century would manage the tension of the gulf between Ghana's $1,500 GDP per capita and the USA's $60,000 (See The Atlantic for a very interesting discussion on what black American GDP would be - clue, it's still 20x what Ghana's is). The answer is, she doesn't; strangely, while the American stories follow a more or less 'typical' family, the African stories suddenly veer off into the atypical, following a tiny minority into the diaspora. It feels like a weird ducking of a very important fact. Also, troubling somehow - in these stories there is definitely no 'greatest hits' approach to Ghanaian history, with Independence barely featuring. This I found really strange; at least for the rest of Africa, Ghanaian independence is an enormous event, a beacon for the rest of us, as Ghana crossed that finish line first. Somehow, this bothered me. I felt like Ghana was given the same attention as America, as if history wasn't happening there somehow. Perhaps that's not fair; but I suppose this isn't a courtroom and I don't have to be.