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Yaa Gyasi Books In Order

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Homegoing (2016) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Yaa Gyasi is an American author of Ghanaian descent who is best known for ‘Homecoming’, her debut novel which not only won numerous awards following its release but it also earned the author a seven-figure book deal.

+Biography

Yaa Gyasi was born in 1989 in Mampong, Ghana to a University of Alabama (Huntsville) French professor by the names of Kwaku Gyasi, and a nurse. Her father’s work at Ohio State University (where he was completing his Ph.D.) saw the family move to the United States two years after Yaa’s birth.

They lived in Illinois for a while before moving to Tennessee and finally settling in Huntsville, Alabama.

Yaa Gyasi initially struggled with life in Alabama. Probably because of her status as an African immigrant, the author was a very shy child. She got on quite well with her siblings because they were all living the same experience as young Ghanaians in the U.S.

Yaa was also drawn to books. Through literature, Yaa Gyasi learned to escape the complexities of her world. And it came as no surprise when she took to writing with fervor.

She participated in competitions for young writers and she even won a couple of them. The victories validated the desire Yaa had to pursue writing as a career. So she went ahead and got her English Degree at Stanford and MFA at the Iowa Writer’s workshop.

Her debut novel caught most people off guard, even Yaa Gyasi herself, mostly because she did not expect it to receive so much interest. She certainly didn’t think ‘Homecoming’ would elicit such a large advance from her publisher. The author was commended for adding a new aspect to African-American literature.

She was also praised for bringing something different to the conversation of diversity on the literary landscape.

+Literary Career

Yaa Gyasi knew she wanted to write novels at a young age. After graduating from Stanford, the author initially worked at a startup company in San Francisco. However, the work failed to satisfy her.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to put up with it for much longer. She was accepted to Iowa in 2012 and that allowed her to continue pursuing her publishing dreams.

By this time, the author had begun writing her novel. After getting a grant to pursue a research project between her sophomore and junior years while at Stanford, the prospect of writing a novel occurred to Yaa.

As with most authors, Yaa did not know what sort of novel she wanted to write. She was just certain that she wanted to write a novel. When a promising idea came to her, Yaa went to Ghana to do some research.

She visited Cape Coast Castle and, as beautiful as it was, Yaa Gyasi was shocked by the history of slavery that shrouded it. The tour guide took them through the dungeons and showed them where slaves were held while telling them of the atrocities that were committed against them there.

Yaa was particularly surprised to learn that the British soldiers who occupied the castle would mingle with Ghanaian women, going so far as to marry them in some cases. Yaa, for all she knew about slavery, had never given much thought to how the British and the locals interacted.

Yaa took what she saw and learned on the trip and began to create the bare bones of her story. She spent a few weeks in Ghana to do additional research on sites like Cape Coast Castle.

Yaa also read books like William St. Clair’s ‘The Door of No Return’ to build her knowledge base on the nature of the relationships that existed between British Soldiers, female slaves, and their children.

It took Yaa Gyasi years to distill her ideas into a cohesive story. By 2012, the author was still trying to figure the structure of her novel out. The author had the beginnings of an idea.

She knew the book would shift between the 18th Century and modern times. From there she produced the first three chapters but that only led her to rethink the structure. But eventually, the pieces began falling into place.

Yaa got a lot of work done while she was at Iowa. She has fond memories of doing workshops with Ayana Mathis. Ayana was a big draw for people of color. Yaa was drawn to her because of her elegant writing style and smart storytelling voice.

Getting to workshop three of her chapters with Ayana did wonders for Yaa. It was also in Iowa that the author met her partner whose notes helped Yaa put the final touches to her manuscript before she finally started submitting it.

Yaa Gyasi loves to read her books out loud when she’s doing revisions. She was encouraged to pick up the habit by a Stanford teacher who noticed her grammatical problems and advised her to read her work out loud to better notice the mistakes.

Yaa has continued to read her work out loud, especially before she makes submissions. She finds that it helps her notice and better understanding the thematic issues that might have arisen in her stories.

Despite some of the complexities in the book, Yaa didn’t use an outline when she wrote ‘Homecoming’. She had a detailed family tree for her characters on hand at all times. But, other than that, she preferred to let the story lead her.

+Homecoming

Effia and Esi are two half-sisters living in different Ghanaian villages. The sisters do not know one another and they go on to live widely disparate life. The 18th Century is kind to Effia whose marriage to an Englishman allows her to enjoy all the luxuries that Cape Coast Castle has to offer.

Esi, on the other hand, first spends time as a prisoner in Cape Coast Castle, in the very dungeons over which Effia walks. Then life sees her make the journey to America where she must acclimate to her status as a slave in a foreign land.

The lives of Effia and Esi and those of their children are followed throughout the subsequent generations.

This novel could be described as historical fiction. Not only does it take place in the 18th Century but the novel explores various historical occurrences such as the Anglo-Asante Wars.

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