Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing continues to win. Photo source: Granta.

Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing is among the sixteen winners of the 2017 American Book Awards. This recognition is the third major prize picked by the debut novel in 2017 as well as since its June 2016 publication, following its wins of the 2017 National Book Critics’ Circle’s John Leonard First Book Prize and the 2017 PEN Hemingway award for debut fiction.

Given by Before Columbus Foundation, the American Book Awards “were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community.” The awards release no nominations—they simply announce the winners.

Described as “an inspiration” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, with Zadie Smith declaring it “destined to be a classic,” Homegoing was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and secured Gyasi a place on Granta‘s Best of Young American Novelists 2017. Homegoing was further named NPR’s Debut Novel of the Year and made it to several major lists: it was a The New York Times 2016 Notable Book, one of Time‘s Top 10 Novels of 2016, one of Oprah’s 10 Favorite Books of 2016, and one of Buzzfeed‘s Best Fiction Books of 2016. Recently, the novel was made mandatory reading for Stanford freshers.

Here is a description of the novel on Amazon.

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Congratulations to Yaa Gyasi! She will receive her award at a ceremony on October 22.

Find out the other winners HERE.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young’s writing has been shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship, the 2017 Gerald Kraak Award, and nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His fiction has appeared in Transition (“A Tenderer Blessing,” 2015), The Threepenny Review (“Mulumba,” 2016), and Pride and Prejudice: African Perspectives on Gender, Social Justice and Sexuality (“You Sing of a Longing,” 2017), an anthology of The Jacana Literary Foundation and The Other Foundation. His work further appears in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays, Africa in Dialogue, and Brittle Paper, where he is submissions editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija Series: a sequence of concept-based e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places (Oct., 2016) focuses on cities. The second, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (June, 2017) focuses on professions. He attended the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and currently teaches English at another Nigerian university. When bored, he blogs pop culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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