At a Glance

Effia and Esi were half-sisters who never met. Effia was born in Fanteland. Esi was born in Asanteland. Effia married a slave trader, Governor James Collins of the Cape Coast Castle, and Esi was sold into slavery by Effia's husband. Effia's son Quey went on to work for the slave trading company, while Esi's daughter Ness lived and died as a slave.

  • Esi's descendants were raised in the United States. Ness's son Kojo was a free man in Baltimore. Kojo's son H was a slave, then a convict, then a union organizer. H's daughter Willie was a singer who moved to Harlem. Willie's first child, Sonny, worked for the NAACP before falling into drugs. Sonny's son Marcus went on to study at Stanford.
  • Effia's descendants were raised in Africa before moving to the United States. Her son Quey married Nana Yaa, a member of Asante royalty. Quey's son James faked his death to be with his wife, Akosua. James's daughter Abena died in childbirth. Abena's daughter Akua set fire to her hut while sleepwalking and killed all but one of her children. Her surviving son, Yaw, became a teacher and moved to Alabama with his wife and daughter.
  • Yaw's daughter Marjorie also attended Stanford. She and Marcus met at a party one night and immediately hit it off. He took her to Pratt City, where H once lived and worked as a coal miner. Marjorie took him to Ghana, where they visited the Cape Coast Castle. At long last, the two families were reunited.


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 visit his village. Then Quey's uncle Fiifi kidnapped a member of Asante royalty, Nana Yaa, and Quey decided to marry her and forget about Cudjo. Their son, James Richard Collins, resisted involvement in the family business. At his grandfather's funeral, James met Akosua, a fierce young woman who refused to shake his hand, because he was a slaver. If he wanted to earn her trust, she said, he would have to leave his family and come back to her. James's father had long since arranged for him to marry Amma, the daughter of Chief Abeeku's successor. It was not a good match. On their wedding night, James pretended to be ill to get out of consummating the marriage. Three months later, they still had not slept together. Finally, James worked up the courage to return to Akosua. On the way, he was attacked and left for dead. He allowed his family to believe him dead so that he could be with Akosua.

James and Akosua had one child, Abena. Villagers nicknamed James "Unlucky" because his farm was a failure. Abena had her first sexual encounter with a friend, Ohene Nyarko, who would be her lover when she grew older. One day, Abena begged Ohene to take her to Kumasi, a big city. There, Abena was approached by a white missionary. Back in the village, Ohene and Abena continued their affair. He promised to marry her after the next good harvest. It ended up being a bad harvest year, however, and villagers quickly blamed this on Abena. She was allowed to stay on the condition that the harvest improve within...

(The entire section is 2093 words.)