Black History Month Spotlight: Yaa Gyasi

February is here, and with it comes our celebration of Black History Month. This year we will be casting a spotlight on various African American authors you might not yet be familiar with, though their literary contributions are important to recognize.

Yaa Gyasi author photo

Our first author spotlight is on Yaa Gyasi, who won the 2017 PEN/Hemingway award for her book Homegoing. Born in Ghana and raised in the United States (where she lived for a time in Illinois before moving to Alabama), Ms. Gyasi holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Univeristy of Iowa’s Iowa Writer’s Workshop. According to her publisher, Penguin Random House, the five books that inspired Ms. Gyasi are Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin, Lost in the City by Edward P. Jones, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.

Homegoing book coverGhana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. (Penguin Random House)