Homegoing blew me away, and I can not wait to tell you about it!

For those of you stopping by for the first time, my name is Emily. I started the Book Nanny in 2018 to give readers a peek at what kind of language, adult content, and violence are in a book. I share with readers the trigger warnings and touchy topics so you can make an informed decision. Homegoing deals with lots of heavy subjects. It peeks into the pasts of Africans and African-Americans over 250 years. It has a bit of all the areas mentioned above, but it was incredible and worth reading if you want to learn more about slavery and generational racism.

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Book Clubs for the Win!!

Homegoing was the book of the month for my local book club. My friend Jackie picked the book, and I am so glad she did. Homegoing isn’t a book I typically gravitate towards, but I felt like it sucked me in and took me on a journey. It made me think, and I gained a much better understanding of the slave trade, generational racism, and the effect of slavery on the people of Africa.

I’ve had a great experience with my book club over the last year, and I want to share this experience with you! My next project is going to be all about book clubs. It’s will be the easy start guide to making your own book club with a few book recommendations and questions to ask to get your discussion going! If you want to be the first to know, sign up for my newsletter!

Homegoing Synopsis

This story begins in Africa and follows two half-sisters and their descendants through 250 years. One of the sisters marries the white captain in charge of the slave operation. The other sister is enslaved. Living in the same castle only floors apart, the sisters never knew each other. Each chapter introduces us to a different family member and tells us a portion of their story. Through the generations, the topics of identity, heritage, and family are woven together to give readers a better understanding of history and family.

Parent Guide

Overall: R for the adult content
Language: PG-13 11 words, 3.5% of pages have a vulgar word. The term nigger is used 19 times.
Violence: PG-13 Multiple beatings, whippings, and other physical abuse; multiple murders. All violence is not very descriptive or gory just stated factually and unemotionally.
Adult Content: R There are multiple sex scenes, and more than half of the chapters have some mention of sex in them. The sex depicted isn’t sensual or erotic. Most mentions are single lines or less than a paragraph. In one scene, the main character is forced to have sex with their partner while a third person masturbates. It is on pages 214 and 215. You can skip to the end of the section without missing anything. Keep reading for more about the adult content.

Trigger Warnings & Hot Topics:

  • Physical Abuse: whippings, beatings, slapping
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Bullying
  • Abandoned children and child neglect
  • Rape
  • Racism
  • Slavery
  • Spouse Abandonment
  • Drugs
  • Abduction
  • Police Brutality
  • Homosexuality

What is a Homegoing?

Homegoing is the name for a traditional African-American funeral service. It is a celebration of their life and the journey of the spirit to a resting place or home. When the African slaves first started this tradition, they believed that the spirits flew back over the ocean and went home to Africa, the land of their ancestors.

As more of the African-American community converted to Christianity, the belief evolved into celebrating the spirit’s journey to heaven and reuniting with God. There are many allusions to this theme of returning home in Homegoing, especially at the end. One way to interpret the title is the whole book is a eulogy of slavery and racism and the celebration of a better world in the future.

About the Author

Some may be wondering what makes Yaa Gyasi qualified to write about slavery, racism, and the colonization of Africa. Yaa was born in Ghana and moved to the United States when she was young. She lived in Alabama before moving to Stanford to go to school. Later, she received funding to travel to Ghana to do research that turned into Homegoing.

If you decide to read Homegoing, you will see many similarities between Gyasi’s life story and Marjorie’s story in the penultimate chapter. Yaa did lots of research while writing Homegoing to give her readers an immersive experience. A long list of her resources is at the end of the book so readers can choose to continue their journey.

What role does sex play in Homegoing?

More than half of the chapters have some reference to or a scene with sex. Homegoing is not a romance novel. The longest adult scene in the whole book is two paragraphs long, with the entire encounter happening in the middle of those two paragraphs. It takes longer to describe what happened than to read the actual passage. Each adult scene in Homegoing is not descriptive of what is happening. What happens is stated as a fact, and then the story moves on to the next part. Romance novels linger on the adult scenes, whereas Gyasi uses sex as a tool to show the relationship between characters.

These scenes give a glimpse into a different culture and way of thinking. Could the story have moved without the sex scenes? Potentially, however, I thought Gyasi used them tastefully to convey the necessary ideas while giving readers a realistic glimpse into their lives. Marriages for convenience, rape, and other sexual encounters were common and changed history and families just as much as slavery and racism. Gyasi did a fantastic job showing this throughout Homegoing.

Education and Activism

Now that you have seen the not-so-great side of Homegoing, let me tell you why I loved it. Yes, there is a lot of heavy stuff in Homegoing, but it is still worth reading.

Yaa Gyasi walks a fine line as she educates all of us about slavery and the generational effect racism has. Many educators have learned to balance the amount of information they give their audience. If they give their audience too little information, the audience does not feel empathy for the cause or is compelled to act. Too much information paralyzes the audience with feelings of being burdened or weighed down.

Homegoing is full of important topics that could become unbalanced. Yaa Gyasi does a masterful job of helping the reader feel empathy in a way that doesn’t leave the reader paralyzed. Typically I shy away from similar heavy reads about the Holocaust because of the emotional load. I felt the importance and a drive to do something without the paralysis of being weighted down. I found Homegoing very refreshing, which was not my expectation.

Recommendations

Homegoing is a great place to start if you are trying to understand generational racism and trauma. I highly recommend this for adults and not a teen audience because of the rape scenes and quantity of sex scenes. You can get your copy from Amazon or many other retailers. Public libraries are a prime spot to find books, but you might have to share them with others.

Teens need to learn about racism, but this is not the best book for teens to explore this concept. Instead, I recommend Monster by Walter Dean Myers, a contemporary screenplay about racism and the justice system. Another teen resource is Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. It is a historical fiction novel set in the deep south and shows the prejudice a black land-owning family experiences.

What to Read Next?

If you read Homegoing and loved it you need to check out Yaa Gyasi’s second book Transcendent Kingdom. Are you a fan of books set in Africa or books by African authors? Here are a few of my favorites similar to Homegoing. Zoo City is an Afrofutruistic novel following the story of a teen trying to solve a crime with her sloth sidekick. Purple Hibiscus is about what life looks like for a privileged family during a military coup when dividing walls fall down. How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child tells the true story of Sandra an African refugee fleeing from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the USA. Check out my full review of How Dare the Sun Rise here before you dive in. It has similar adult themes as Homegoing.

If you have read Homegoing, what are your thoughts?

Happy Reading
Emily