Readers should consider marking Juneteenth with Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, a sprawling tale following the descendants of two Ghanaian half sisters, born in the 18th century. (The author also penned Transcendent Kingdom.)
In a castle occupied by European colonists, one sister enters a new echelon, becoming the mistress and wife of a governor, while the other is tortured in the dungeons below. Just as the sisters must grapple with their race and social status under slavery and colonization, so will their ancestors throughout the next several centuries.
Each chapter brings us into a new time period, point of view and place as the ancestors of the sisters move through the world, grappling with their shifting positions, always under the constant constraints of race and generational trauma. Rather than centering one character, the throughline of the family carries with it the importance of heritage and belonging.
The term “homegoing” is the belief that an enslaved soul returns home after death—the characters are forever linked to their families and their home in an emotionally gripping and historically significant story.