Last Updated 04 Jan 2023

Identity and Belongingness in the Novel Homegoing

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Many people spend much of their lives searching for a place to call home where they feel a strong sense of belonging; the transatlantic slave trade caused this search for Africans and their many descendants to be particularly difficult. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi presents this African diaspora as a major theme in her novel. She portrays this in a fashion that shows how these people endured exclusion and abuse whether they decided to stay in africa, left their home and country in search of something better, or were forcefully taken and sold to the Americans.

Gyasi writes the characters to follow one shared Ghanaian genealogy as well as their similar feelings of injustice and rejection throughout the lineage of their descendants. The lineage originates as Fante and Asante in the late 18th century and continues until the late 20th century in America and Ghana. This style of writing allowed for the theme of transnationalism which contributes to struggles of belonging. In each generation of the descendants the reader is introduced to each struggle with finding emotional and physical belonging while attempting to survive slavery, unjust imprisonment, exile, and other sufferings. Gyasi’s Homegoing tells of racial disparities and inequalities throughout African history, and how this fictional lineage where each individual’s story relates.

A people from one nation bear a connection to one another, however, adverse ideas and diverse cultural environments can introduce certain obstructions between said people. Quey, the son of Effia and a british soldier James lived in the Cape Coast Castle where he saw two worlds. “Quey had wanted to cry but that desire embarrassed him. He knew that he was one of the half-caste children of the Castle, and, like the other half-caste children, he could not fully claim either half of himself, neither his father's whiteness nor his mother’s blackness.

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Neither England nor the Gold Coast.” (89) Despite knowing he lived above hundreds of captive slaves with similar origin to himself Quey ultimately decided to stay within the comforts of the slave trade. This question of belonging grew stronger with James, Quey’s child, who encountered an Asante girl that refused to shake his hand because he was Fante and heavily involved in the slave trade. Quey associated himself to africa, nonetheless, he did not feel as though he identified with the Fante or the Asante. This struggle of finding a people to identity and belong with is apparent throughout generations of africans alike.

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