Moving, Compelling & Powerful
This story traces eight generations of two sisters who were separated; one sister lived in Cape Coast castle with her British husband, while the other sister lived in the tunnel of the castle waiting to be shipped to America as a slave. One lineage and two different journeys.
Yaa Gyasi is 29 year old Ghanian American author. As an author of a debut novel, Gyasi is a compelling author and her style of writing stands alone. This book was so good that I could not put it down. From the first page until the last page, my attention was captured. Within the three hundred pages in this book, I learned more than what I have ever known about the effects that our history has on our lineage. In this book, we follow a lineage from Ghana all the way to Harlem, New York.
Here are four quotes, that I found moving from the book:
- “Safer? why? Because the British don’t tramp through bushland finding slaves? Because they keep their hands clean while we work? Let me tell you, the work they do is the most dangerous of all” (Gyasi, 61)
- The story sheds light on the fact that slavery included the hands of African people themselves as much as it included British hands. In fact, Africans held their people captive and kidnapped from different villages. Which to me was very interesting, because it made me wonder what did slavery look like from those oppressed eyes.
- In Mississippi, Esi has spoken to her in Twi until their master caught her. He’d given Esi five lashes for every Twi word Ness spoke, and when Ness, seeing her battered mother, had become too scared to speak, he gave Esi five lashes for each minute Ness’s silence. (Gyasi, 71)
- And just like that, her native world begins to be washed away as soon as she steps foot into America. Here we see Esi’s master, washing her native tongue away from her. Replacing Twi with the English language. One replacement after the other..
- “Don’t you see this war the Asantes and the British are fighting now and will continue to fight for far longer than you or I or even James can live to see? There’s more at stake here than just slavery, my brother. It’s a question of who will own the land, the people, the power. You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, Now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean, let there be no mess. There will always be blood.” (Gyasi, 93)
- That same knife resembles the pain and suffering that our ancestors have endured. The endurance that have spilled over generations and generations. The goat resembles Africa as a whole and all of the slaves that were sold and forced to work on the fields of America. Everything changed, the language, food and the mentality. There will always be blood.
- “The British were no longer selling slaves to America, but slavery had not ended, and his father did not seem to think that it would end. They would just trade one type of shackles for another, trade physical ones that wrapped around wrists and ankles for the invisible ones that wrapped around the mind.” (Gyasi, 93)
- While the slavery transaction has ended, the slavery mentality continued. Physical shackles were traded for invisible ones.
This book was more than what I have originally expected. In fact, the story below my expectations. I highly recommend this read to everyone! Especially to those who are questioning where they come from and who they are. This book should be followed by a movie!
Have you read this book? What are your thoughts on this read?