What happens to Esi and her descendants in Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi?

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jules-cordry eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the novel Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (of which you can read a full summary in the eNotes study guide), Esi Asara is born in Asanteland in what is now the Republic of Ghana. After a comfortable childhood, she is sold into slavery, imprisoned in Cape Coast Castle, and raped by soldiers before being shipped to a plantation in the American South. There Esi gives birth to a daughter, Ness, who is sold to a different slave owner when she is only ten years old. As an adult, Ness works on a plantation she calls “Hell,” where she marries a slave named Sam. With the help of a woman named Aku, Ness and Sam attempt to escape with their son, Kojo. While Aku and Kojo manage to escape, Ness and Sam are caught and punished: Sam is killed, and Ness is ruthlessly whipped. Ness goes on to work on a less brutal plantation, where she meets a man named TimTam and becomes close with his daughter, Pinky. Kojo lives with Aku in Baltimore and grows up to marry a woman named Anna. While pregnant, Anna is kidnapped and sold into slavery; she gives birth to their son, H, on a plantation. After the Civil War, H is arrested on trumped-up charges and forced to labor in a coal mine, where he works hard enough to have his sentence reduced. After his release, he moves to Pratt City, where he continues to work as a coal miner and has two children with a woman named Ethe. Their daughter Willie, a singer, moves to Harlem with a man named Robert and works as a housekeeper and custodian. When Robert eventually leaves her and their son, Sonny, Willie joins a church where she meets a poet named Eli. Willie and Eli have a daughter, Josephine. After her birth, Eli starts being absent for long periods of time, a circumstance to which Willie resigns herself. Sonny grows up to be an activist, working for the NAACP and often having to ask Willie to bail him out of jail. Eventually he loses his faith in activism and becomes addicted to drugs. During this time he works at a jazz club and has three children by three different women. Willie later helps Sonny raise his children and overcome his addiction. Sonny’s son Marcus studies sociology at Stanford, where he begins dating Marjorie, who—though they don’t know it—is descended from his ancestor Esi’s half-sister, Effia. Together Marcus and Marjorie visit Pratt City, where Marcus researches his family history, and then Ghana, where Marjorie was born and their two families originated.

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