- Generational trauma, Healing trauma, family journey, historical fiction, love & loss, African ancestry, African American historical fiction, African history
“You must always know where your children are.”
Countless times since reading this compelling and emotional book, it has come to mind. Some of those instances seem unprovoked and profound, while others come from identifiable triggers whether it be from conversations acknowledging generational trauma or from the frustration of not being able to know so much about ourselves. This book has received a lot of praise, it has gained notoriety and it is not undeserved. Many times growing up my mother and I had conversations about our family and its origins, while contemplating the reasons and pain that led our predecessors to live and love the way they did. Too often those conversations were heavy with emotion and suppositions, but also with the emptiness that punctuated our thoughts. We, like millions of others, truly cannot know. Records were destroyed or never kept, families were split and killed, and thus traditions and knowledge were systematically hindered.
Gyasi’s story is a wondrous account of two branches of the same family are split. Starting her tale hundreds of years ago in Africa each chapter focuses on the two people from each branch as they define their generation. Bringing the story into present day, Gyasi weaves the words in an honest and poetic way effortlessly infusing her characters’ lives with raw emotion.
I have read many types of historical fiction, have learned so much about African American history. The reality is that it is not adequately taught in the American school system. For all that we know, there is too much that has been buried. Among the general history, it is EVERY personal history, every lineage, every connection to our ancestry that has been cut at the root. I know nothing of the history of the many nations of Africa, it is not taught, it is vast and complex, and all my life I have struggled to comprehend my connection to it. I devoured this book, day and night until the end. Even as a fictional work it carefully and expertly laid out the cause and effect of generations of trauma, how it too evolved within the community, how we search without always knowing what we are searching for. I smiled, I mourned, I felt. After reading this book I was determined more than ever to find our answers, if there were any left to us. Perhaps only in our DNA.
“Here, in this country, it doesn’t matter where you came from first to the white people running things. You’re here now, and here black is black is black.”
This past year my mother gifted me a DNA Kit from Africanancestry.com, it is founded and run by African American entrepreneurs who have dedicated their lives to using modern genetic research to restore some of that lost history. I highly recommend their services. It was the first glimmer of hope, while we may not be able to track our lineage through nearly two hundred years of slavery, we now have an answer we thought was not possible even a few years ago. We are Kpelle, We are Temne, We are Fulani, We are Mende. This book was cathartic, it helped to fuel a journey, when I finally read the last page and closed the book, I felt like someone had given voice to something I had been struggling with my whole life. This book will move you, it is to date one of the best books I have read, and I recommend it to everyone regardless of their personal heritage, because above all it is transformative story of family.