by Yaa Gyasi

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How does Homegoing engage with the changing landscape of American identity?

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Homegoing engages with the changing landscape of American identity by following the lives of two families that discover what it means to be an American in different ways through different eras. Finally, Marcus and Marjorie come together to embrace both American opportunities and their African heritage.

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Yaa Gysai's novel Homegoing follows the story of two connected families descended from half sisters Esi and Effia. Esi is sold into slavery and taken to America early on, while Effia remains in Africa and marries a slave trader. Let's look at how each of these families experience the idea of what it means to be American.

Esi's family struggles through slavery and into the oppression and hardship of its aftermath. Esi's grandson, H. Black, works in a coal mine after the Civil War as he explores freedom and learns that freedom isn't necessarily free in reality. H. Black's grandson Sonny grows up in Harlem and begins working for the NAACP as a political activist. He becomes disillusioned when he cannot help the people assigned to him, and he ends up deeply involved in drugs until his mother helps him clean up his act.

Sonny's son, Marcus, however, pursues graduate work at Stanford. Opportunities have opened up for Marcus that his ancestors never had, showing that the American landscape is changing. Marcus has a new way of being an American—an educated American who can look back and discover his family history through a new perspective.

Marcus meets and falls in love with Marjorie, a descendent of Effia. The experiences of Marjorie's family are very different, for they remained in Africa until Marjorie's father moved the family to Alabama. By the time they arrive, America has changed, at least to a point. For Marjorie, it is a land of opportunity and interest where she can further her education and discover new experiences. Yet Marjorie learns quickly that discrimination is still present, for the boy she begins dating dumps her because he is white and she is Black. Being an American does not mean living in a perfect society—far from it, in fact—yet Marjorie does become an American even as she holds onto her African roots and teaches Marcus about them.

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