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The Ghanaian-American Novelist Unpacking Slavery, Identity and Immigration

Yaa Gyasi's debut novel, 'Homegoing', was praised by Zadie Smith and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
February 20, 2017, 6:07pm

(Photo by Michael Lionstar)

Yaa Gyasi published Homegoing a few months before the US voted in Donald Trump, and her reflections on culture in the time of Trump are perfectly apt for her best-selling novel: "I think one of the best things that art can do is to shine a light on dark places, and to hold something up and say: 'This hasn't gone unnoticed. We see this, and we're going to say something about it.' And so hopefully people will continue to call up and call out these moments that are damaging, devastating, or dark, and not let it slide."

Gyasi does something unusually seen in conversations of late: She thinks carefully about every sentence. Her rare calm makes her a refreshing voice to turn to during these nerve-wrecking times; equally, Homegoing is a must-read for any person who might describe themselves as "woke," giving a crystal-clear and heartbreaking portrait of the legacy of slavery in America. While it provides the escapism that an excellent novel is bound to give, it also speaks to how crucial it is to look at history for answers and guidance, because, Gyasi comments, "so much of what we are looking at is not new."

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