Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom has been selected for the 2021-2022 University of Wisconsin-Madison Go Big Read program. The university community of over 40,000 students will be invited to take part in a series of events centered on Gyasi’s second novel. Every first year student will receive a copy of the book at the Chancellor’s Convocation for new students.

The Go Big Read program is sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and “engages members of the campus community and beyond in a shared, academically focused reading experience.” Books featured on the program typically explore issues of contemporary significance. For example, Dave Cullen’s “Parkland”, which was featured last year, examines the youth movement to end gun violence in the US.

Transcendent Kingdom certainly fits this profile, as it explores race, faith, and immigration. The novel tells the intimate, heart-rending story of a Ghanaian family in Alabama. Haunted by tragic experiences from childhood, Gifty, a Stanford post-grad of neuroscience, seeks to unravel the mystery of her family’s misfortune. Gyasi will take part in some of the events curated for the program. Students, faculty and staff will have the chance to incorporate the book in classrooms and other events.

The University’s Chancellor Rebecca Blank states that the choice of fiction this year speaks to the urgent need in contemporary culture of “listening to people’s stories and finding ways to reach out to them.” Regarding the choice of Transcendent Kingdom, she adds: “Gifty’s story is all about her struggle to establish her own identity. In this particular story, we can all identify with how we work to integrate our past experiences, family history and future dreams into a coherent sense of who we are.

Yaa Gyasi Transcendent Kingdom is on Brittle Papers 50 Notable African Books of 2020 and the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist.

Any UW–Madison instructor, student, or event planner interested in a copy can place a request here.

Congrats to Gyasi! The University of Wisconsin-Madison community is in for a treat.