The copy I have is a signed first edition and came in a beautiful cover, courtesy of my Indiespensible book box. While I don’t know that I would have chosen this book for myself, Yaa Gyasi wrote an undeniably lovely story.
It began with Maame. Maame had to daughters born of flame: Effia and Esi. Effia was born Fante, and Esi as rivaling Asante. They did not know of each other’s existence until late in their lives, when it was too late for them to meet. Effia’s path led her to be the wife of a white settler, while Esi was sold in to slavery and sent to America from their native Ghana.
Each chapter follows one of the descendants of Effia and Esi. Effia’s people remain in Ghana, holding onto their heritage although white settlers threaten to take it from them. Effia’s people become slavers, selling their own countrymen to foreigners. Esi’s people are those sold– they live as slaves for generation after generation.
Although each person only gets one chapter, they all connect, and you learn so much about their lives in a few pages. Readers can see how life has progressed from Maame’s time. This book has a huge scope, starting with Maame in the mid 1700s and moving into modern times. It’s quite amazing.
Effia’s line has slavers, chiefs and Big Men, mixed blood, and a strong hold on their Ghanaian roots. Esi’s line has slaves, miners, addicts, and free men. It’s fascinating to see how slavery impacts both sides, whether they are the ones in servitude or the ones selling their fellow Ghanaians. Yaa Gyasi did a great job of presenting multiple views of what life could have been like.
My favorite part of the book is that the two sisters finally meet, in the forms of their descendants, seven generations later.