Homegoing Summary
by Yaa Gyasi

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Homegoing Summary

Homegoing is a novel by Yaa Gyasi, which depicts the histories of two families, beginning with half-sisters Esi and Effia, who never met.

  • Effia marries a slave trader, and her son takes over the family business. Successive generations live out their lives in Africa, ending with Marjorie, who is raised in the United States.
  • Esi is brought to the United States as a slave. Her descendants are born into slavery until the end of the Civil War. Future descendants struggle to overcome the legacy of slavery.
  • In the modern day, Effia's descendant Marjorie and Esi's descendant Marcus begin dating, symbolically uniting the two families.

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Summary

Homegoing traces the history of two families: one that works in the slave trade and one that rises up out of slavery. Effia Otcher gave birth to one line, while Esi Asara gave birth to another. Effia and Esi were half-sisters who never met. The novel is broken into two parts of seven chapters each, alternating chapters between Effia's descendants and Esi's. Effia was born in Fanteland, the only daughter of Cobbe and Maame, his Asante slave, who escaped and returned to her village. Effia was given to Cobbe's first wife, Baaba, to nurse. Villagers claimed that Effia was born of fire because Baaba's milk dried up, making it impossible for her to feed Effia. As a child, Effia accidentally dropped her infant brother, Fiifi. Fiifi was uninjured, but Baaba still hit Effia with a hot stirring spoon. From then on, Baaba was abusive to Effia, who grew up and earned the name Effia the Beauty despite her scars. Effia wanted to marry Abeeku Badu, the young chief of their village. He was an ambitious man, however, and made a deal with Governor James Collins of the Cape Coast Castle to supply the notorious slave trading center with slaves. Collins fell in love with Effia and asked for her hand in marriage even though she was all but promised to Abeeku. Abeeku let her go, and Effia moved to the Cape Coast Castle with James. She had one son, Quey.

Esi was born in Asanteland, the daughter of Maame and Big Man, a great warrior who had proven himself in battle. Esi was called "ripe mango" because she was a little spoiled but sweet. She had an easy childhood. Her father even procured a slave girl, Little Dove, instead of allowing Esi to help with the housework like a commoner. Little Dove couldn't carry pots on her head, however, and when she spilled water, Big Man beat her so as not to appear weak. One night, Esi was awoken by the cries of a watchman warning the village that their enemies were upon them. Esi fled into the woods, where she climbed a tree to hide from the attackers. One of the warriors threw rocks at her until she lost her grip and fell. Everyone who survived the attack was chained and taken to the Cape Coast Castle to be sold into slavery. Esi was imprisoned in one of the female dungeons, where women were stacked and chained on top of each other. Soldiers repeatedly raped her. James Collins shipped her to the Americas to work on a plantation. Esi was called Frownie because her heart was so hard. She had a daughter, Ness, who was taken away from her when the child was just ten.

Effia's son, Quey, was raised at Cape Coast Castle. His childhood friend, Cudjo, was a young warrior who would later become the chief of his village. During a wrestling match, Cudjo and Quey nearly kissed. Quey's father sent him to study in England before the boys could act on their feelings. Before James died, he managed to secure Quey the rank of junior officer at Cape Coast Castle. Once Quey returned from England, the new governor of the castle sent Quey to his mother's village to live in a company outpost. Ostensibly, Quey was there to oversee operations and to remind Abeeku of his trade obligations. He tried and failed to convince Abeeku to stop trading with their competitors. Quey received a letter from Cudjo, and when Quey didn't respond, Cudjo visited him weeks later. For a while, Quey considered Cudjo's invitation to...

(The entire section is 2,093 words.)