Conversation moderated by Anne Bothwell, KERA, Art&Seek
Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing, begins in 18th-century Ghana with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are completely unknown to each other. While Effia is married off to a British nobleman, Esi is held in the dungeons of her sister’s castle along with many others before being sold as slaves in America. The story follows Esi’s descendants through the Civil War, The Great Migration, and mid-century Harlem. The other side of the family, still in Ghana, deals with the Asante and Fante people grappling with violent backlash from slavery and colonization. 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.
Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana but moved with her mother to Huntsville, Alabama, at a young age. She is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Author Phil Klay raved, "Homegoing is a remarkable feat—a novel at once epic and intimate, capturing the moral weight of history as it bears down on individual struggles, hopes, and fears. A tremendous debut.” Ta-Nehisi Coates selected Gyasi for the National Book Foundation's 2016 5 Under 35 honor.
Pulitzer Prize–winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson will interview Gyasi as well as discuss her own book Negroland: A Memoir, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography and a New York Times Notable Book. Jefferson was born in 1947 into upper-crust black Chicago; her father was a physician, and her mother, a socialite. Author Isabel Wilkerson hailed it as “provocative and insightful. . . . Melancholic and hopeful, raw and disarming, she weighs the psychic toll of constructed divisions at the intersection of race, gender, caste, and privilege. A moving memoir that is an act of courage in its vulnerability.” Vanity Fair said, “Jefferson is a national treasure and her memoir should be required reading across the country.”
6:30 p.m. Join Dr. Roslyn Walker, the DMA’s Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art, for a pre-event tour focused on works of art from Ghana. Tour sign-up will begin 30 minutes prior to the start time. Tour space is limited and is first-come, first-served.
Yaa Gyasi and Margo Jefferson will sign books shortly after their talk.