Yaa Gyasi

Ghanaian-American novelist

Yaa Gyasi (born 1989) is a Ghanaian-American novelist.


  • I thought the novel would be traditionally structured, set in the present, with flashbacks to the 18th century. But the longer I worked, the more interested I became in being able to watch time as it moved, watch slavery and colonialism and their effects – I wanted to see the through-line.
  • I was devastated. I felt immense rage. The dungeons still smell after hundreds of years. There was grime on the walls and a tiny air hole at the top. When they closed the door, there was no light. Hundreds of people were kept there for three months at a time before being sent God knew where. The terror they must have felt – not knowing what was to become of them. You can imagine and you cannot possibly imagine.
  • It is a dual thing – you belong and you don’t. I remember the Ghanaian passport official reading my name correctly and it felt like the biggest, warmest welcome. At the same time, I understand my native language but don’t speak it. So I am necessarily at this remove – the country can never be fully mine.
  • It’s interesting because this book comes from a place of always feeling like I wasn’t Ghanaian enough for Ghana and not African American enough for the United States. So it will also be interesting to see how Ghanaian critics respond to it, because I can imagine getting the opposite side of the critique, where they think my treatment of the African American characters is nuanced. I don’t know what to do about that. I have always existed in this weird, murky space where someone is allowed to say I’m not either thing, if they are that thing.

Quotes about Yaa Gyasi

  • (What’s the last great book you read?) ...The last great one I read was Yaa Gyasi’s “Homegoing,” a fascinating novel about the legacy of the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic.
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