Yaa Gyasi – Transcendent Kingdom

Gifty has always been second, her brother Nana was the beloved child of the parents, as a sports prodigy all eyes of their Alabama hometown have been on him until an injury and later a drug addiction took his life. Gifty’s mother has never recovered from the loss, her father had left the family even before to turn back to his home country Ghana. Even as an adult and highly successful scientist, Gifty longs for the mother’s recognition which she never gets. Also religion, with which she grew up does not really offer any condolence. How should she ever be able to love when she herself has never experienced being loved?

Yaa Gyasi‘s “Homegoing“ was already a novel I thoroughly enjoyed, “Transcendent Kingdom“, however, is much stronger in the way the protagonist is portrayed and in conveying this fragmented family‘s critical emotional state. The mother struggling to make a life in a foreign country and thus enduring open racism from the people she works for; Gifty being raised to be silent with a strange idea of how to be a good girl and to follow ideals marked by a religious understanding which limits her in every respect.

“Nana was the first miracle, the true miracle, and the glory of his birth cast a long shadow. I was born into the darkness that shadow left behind. I understood that, even as a child.”

Gifty loves her brother, admires him and even though, as a child, she cannot understand what happens to him after his injury, he is the one who drives her to work her way up in the scientific community, to go into one of the hardest disciplines in order to understand the human brain and to contribute to scientific finding and development.

“Like my mother, I had a locked box where I kept all my tears. My mother had only opened hers the day that Nana died and she had locked it again soon.”

Gifty’s mother suffers from depression which makes her unable to care or love her daughter. She does not see what the girl achieves, how hard she works and how much she suffers from the lack of emotional care. It is a pity to see how she neglects the girl who retreats into her own world and which makes her unable of bonding with others, no matter if on a friendships or a romantic basis.

A wonderfully written novel, highly emotional and going to the heart.

Yaa Gyasi – Homegoing

yaa-gyasi-homegoing
Yaa Gyasi – Homegoing

Across the centuries and across the Atlantic Ocean stretches the story of Effia and Esi. Born at the end of the 18th century in the former British colony which now is Ghana, their lives develop completely different and we follow the line of the blood. From rivalling tribes in Africa, over slavery, from basic schooling in missionary schools to higher education, from the African jungle to the jungle of the modern metropolis: We see the legacy that the two sisters have given with their blood, how generations later their story is not forgotten and how even across centuries and borders the struggles for a self-determined and independent life is fought – yet, often without success. Maybe there is something as a curse that can be engraved in a family.

The story starts at a rather slow pace when we are presented the story in Ghana more than two hundred years ago. We get an idea of the living conditions and especially of the structure of an African village. What I found most interesting about this part of the story was the role that women had in the community, especially how different wives could “share” a husband and find a somehow acceptable arrangement with the situation. Additionally, the fights between the tribes were fascinating since this something which is completely different from our European history. The colonialization part shed another light on Africa – the struggle between the indigenous population and the British coloniser. Here, the religious aspects were most intriguing. There is another aspect which always looms over the story: to what extent is the belief in evil a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy? In America, we rush from the slaves of the southern states over the times of the Civil Rights Movement to our days where still the colour of your skin is a decisive factor.

Yaa Gyasi’s novel is full of singular topics which cannot all be addressed in a short review. The most striking feature is how she manages to follow the line of the two families over the time and how they recall their ancestors and things connected to them. There is some kind of family remembrance which is really touching. All in all, a wonderful, with words colourfully depicted novel which gives you a lot of food for thought particularly about Africa and how the people’s perception there might differ from ours.