Homegoing is a multigenerational novel that traces a family’s lineage in Africa and America. Complex characters allow us to see history in a new light.
This year, I’ve made an effort to try and read more from authors that come from different backgrounds. In my quest to diversify my reading, I found two books that use multiple perspectives to tell a story: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen. At first glance it looks as though these two couldn’t be more different. While they both discuss the immigrant experience, Gyasi’s book takes place in Africa and America, while Nguyen’s takes place in Vietnam and America. However, both use multiple storytellers in order to discuss different aspects of their stories.
In Homegoing, we begin with two half-sisters who will never actually meet. The author explores their family tree from the mid-1700’s to the present day, with each chapter being told from a different character’s perspective. By telling her story in this way, Gyasi is able to explore the many unique experiences faced by Africans and African-Americans throughout history.
The Refugees takes place mainly in the present day, and talks about some of the different experiences that Vietnamese refugees have had in America. While many Vietnamese refugees are escaping the same thing, they have different experiences while in America. Nguyen does a fantastic job of exploring the different attitudes and feelings that a refugee may feel.
I loved reading both of these books because of their unique characters. This allowed me to see not only the history of certain populations, but how their history affects them to this day. In each book, each character only had one chapter, but I was instantly drawn into each story. I was actually disappointed to end certain chapters, just because I wanted to keep reading about that character’s life. Each of these books allowed me to experience the world from a variety of unique perspectives.