This year’s Aidoo-Snyder award in the category of best creative work is being given to Yaa Gyasi for her book Homegoing (published by Alfred A. Knopf), a compelling narrative written across continents and decades. Homegoing is a family saga that begins with the story of two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who were born in different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Gyasi alternates each chapter to follow the two threads of the descendants of Effia and Esi. Effia’s family lives through the tumultuous times of nineteenth and twentieth century Ghana, struggling through the experience of colonialism and later independence. Esi, who was transported to the United States as a slave, has a family whose descendants lose their links to their ancestral home through the struggles of enslavement and eventually of freedom. Gyasi is an accomplished writer who is able to engage with the heavy weight of the history of the slave trade through her complex characters. She presents an intimate portrait that explores the connectedness of Africa and its diaspora. Through prose that is at times poetic, Gyasi prioritizes the experience of what it means to travel through life and the world as a woman of African descent; always “fighting in her sleep against an opponent she couldn’t name come morning because in the light that opponent just looked like the world around her” (page 120). Yaa Gyasi’s novel reminds readers that even separated by centuries and continents, women of African descent have stories that must be told.
2016 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize