Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – Book


I have read so many novels that are also historical. People love to trace things back in time to see their beginnings, their causes and effects, and to feel some continuity in a constantly changing world. Americans of European descent can mine a rich trove of historical literature that speaks to them.

However, for Americans of African descent the pickin’s are a bit slimmer. We have books that happen in Africa and books that describe various aspects of the fraught history of Africans as slaves and later as citizens of America. There are only a few novels that connect the two, Roots by Alex Haley being the best known of these. In this case, in Yaa Gyasi’s book Homegoing, we get to follow an African family line through a pair of necklaces which have been owned by two sisters with disparate fates.

I don’t believe that white readers are able to experience this novel in as intimate and familiar a way as would an African American reader. Clearly we understand the words, get interested in the characters and wince at the injustice of the struggles, and perhaps even accept blame for the actions of our forebears. We may connect at some level with the idea of being sold into slavery by our own or neighboring people because the appearance of Europeans in Africa was somewhat comparable to what it might be like for aliens to appear in our home town. We can see, in hindsight, what the European drive to colonize did to Western coastal groups in Africa (Ivory Coast, Ghana). Still it is difficult to feel the imprisonment, the terrifying oceanic transport, the slavery, the aftermath of contempt that accompanied freedom. It is, I think, not as visceral an experience to read this book as a European transplant as it is for an African transplant. However, even if the experience is felt at a slight remove by some readers it is still a book well worth reading.

In these days when a white nationalist like Richard Spencer, President of a group called The National Policy Institute (gasp) says things like “As  Europeans we are uniquely at the center of world history” and calls white folks, incomprehensibly, the “children of the sun” is cropping up on mainstream news we must insist that people are not ranked in any order – not from brightest to dimmest – not from most deserving to least deserving – not on a scale from best to worst – based on the color of their skin or the continent of their origin. In fact, since slaves were not allowed to read or write and families were often callously separated it seems more accurate to blame any perceived differences between white folks and black folks on the whole experience of slavery than on membership in an ethnic group.

As you can see Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is a book that inspires lots of internal thought and dialogue about cultures and histories and guilt and pain. And this book ends with hope. It ends with an offspring of two African sisters in a library at Stanford University researching her heritage in order to give the world this important book.

November 2016 Book List




I’m still reading but I am going through a slow phase with too much happening to allow for much peaceful book time. But I will still keep making myself (and you)  a book list each month because winter is coming and curling up in a chair and reading are favorite winter activities of mine. I have compiled a list that includes four sources: Amazon, Independent Booksellers, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times. Each of these sources makes its list a bit differently, with Independent Booksellers being the most different (they do not base their list on what is being published, they base it on what their readers are buying).


Moonglow: A Novel by Michael Chabon

Saving Time by Zadie Smith

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Lewis

Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic

The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens

Night School by Lee Child (Jack Reacher)

Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III (member of the Grateful Dead) (Bio) by Robert Greenfield

Victoria: A Novel of a Young Queen by Daisy Goodwin

The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart

Literature and Fiction

Valiant Gentlemen: A Novel by Sabina Murray

Judas by Amos Oz and translated by Nicholas de Lange

The Terranauts: A Novel by T. C. Boyle

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Faithful: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Orphan of the Carnival: A Novel by Carol Birch

The Survivor’s Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

Victoria: A Novel of a Young Queen by Daisy Goodwin

The Spy: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart

Mystery and Thriller

Night Watch by Iris Johansen, Roy Johansen

Conclave: A Novel by Robert Harris

The Chemist by Stephanie Meyer

The Whistler by John Grisham

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Night School (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

Moral Defense (Samantha Brinkman) by Marcia Clark

Livia Lone by Barry Eisler




The Sellout by Paul Beatty

The Whistler by John Grisham

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

Today Will be Different by Maria Semple

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Order to Kill by Vince Flynn

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Home by Harlan Coben

The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

The Terranauts by T. C. Boyle

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Nix by Nathan Hill

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith

Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand

Escape Clause by John Sanford

Float by Anne Carson

A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston

By Gaslight by Steven Price

Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien

Envelope Poems by Emily Dickinson

Felicity by Mary Oliver

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Before, the Fall by Noah Hawley




A Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Shelter in Place by Alexander Mahsik

Jerusalem by Alan Moore


IQ by Joe Ide

The Trespasser by Tana French

No Echo by Anne Holt

Female Protagonists

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

All the Time in the World by Caroline Angell

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky

The Chosen Ones by Steve Sem-Sandburg

Bridget Jones’s Baby by Helen Fielding

Nine Island by Jane Alison

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally

The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (The Tempest)

Night School (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

The Long Room by Francesca Kay

The Fall Guy by James Lasdun

The Girl from Venice by Martin Cruz Smith

The Vanishing Year by Kate Moretti

Livia Lone by Barry Eisler

Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey by Elena Ferrante (NF)

The Mothers by Burt Bennett

The Whistler by John Grisham

The Mortifications by Derek Palacio

Serious Sweet by A. L. Kennedy

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter by Joh Pipkin

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

Black Widow by Christopher Brookmyre

Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith




Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino

The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything by D. A. Mishani

These are the Names by Tommy Wieringa

Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic (NF)

The Sick Bag Song by Nick Cave

Field Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan

Story of Love in Solitude by Roger Lewinter

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike

Best Books of 2016


Ph Death by James P. Carse

Goliath by Shawn Corridan and Gary Waid

The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon

The Long Room by Francesca Kay

Bestiary by Donika Kelly (Poetry)

Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marias

Valiant Gentlemen by Sabrina Murray

Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao

Bodys by Vanessa Roveto (Prose poems)

The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon