Quotes from Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi ·  300 pages

Rating: (78.2K votes)

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“The need to call this thing “good” and this thing “bad,” this thing “white” and this thing “black,” was an impulse that Effia did not understand. In her village, everything was everything. Everything bore the weight of everything else.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others. Those who were there in the olden days, they told stories to the children so that the children would know, so that the children could tell stories to their children. And so on, and so on.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, "now I will remove my knife slowly - so let things be easy and clean; let there be no mess." There will always be blood.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“We are all weak most of the time,' she said finally. 'Look at the baby. Born to his mother, he learns how to eat from her, how to walk, talk, hunt, run. He does not invent new ways. He just continues with the old. This is how we all come to the world, James. Weak and needy, desperate to learn how to be a person.' She smiled at him. 'But if we do not like the person we have learned to be, should we just sit in front of our fufu, doing nothing? I think, James, that maybe it is possible to make a new way.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home. I”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“White men get a choice. They get to choose they job, they house. They get to choose to make black babies, then disappear into thin air, like they wasn't never there to begin with, like these black women they slept with or raped done laid on top of themselves and got pregnant. White men get to choose for black men too. Used to sell 'em; now they just send 'em to prison like my daddy, so that they can't be with they kids.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Originally, he'd wanted to focus his work on the convict leasing system that had stolen years off of his great-grandpa H's life, but the deeper into the research he got, the bigger the project got. How could he talk about Great-Grandpa H's story without also talking about his grandma Willie and the millions of other black people who had migrated north, fleeing Jim Crow? And if he mentioned the Great Migration, he'd have to talk about the cities that took that flock in. He'd have to talk about Harlem, And how could he talk about Harlem without mentioning his father's heroin addiction - the stints in prison, the criminal record? And if he was going to talk about heroin in Harlem in the '60s, wouldn't he also have to talk about crack everywhere in the '80s? And if he wrote about crack, he'd inevitably be writing, to, about the "war on drugs." And if he started talking about the war on drugs, he'd be talking about how nearly half of the black men he grew up with were on their way either into or out of what had become the harshest prison system in the world. And if he talked about why friends from his hood were doing five-year bids for possession of marijuana when nearly all the white people he'd gone to college with smoked it openly every day, he'd get so angry that he'd slam the research book on the table of the beautiful but deadly silent Lane Reading Room of Green Library of Stanford University. And if he slammed the book down, then everyone in the room would stare and all they would see would be his skin and his anger, and they'd think they knew something about him, and it would be the same something that had justified putting his great-grandpa H in prison, only it would be different too, less obvious than it once was.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“If we go to the white man for school, we will learn the way the white man wants us to learn. We will come back and build the country the white man wants us to build. One that continues to serve them. We will never be free.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“What could be worse than dead? But all around him, the evidence was clear. Only weeks before, the NYPD had shot down a fifteen-year-old black boy, a student, for next to nothing. The shooting had started the riots, pitting young black men and some black women against the police force. The news made it sound like the fault lay with the blacks of Harlem. The violent, the crazy, the monstrous black people who had the gall to demand that their children not be gunned down in the streets.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“There should be no room in your life for regret. If in the moment of doing you felt clarity, you felt certainty, then why feel regret later?” She”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“but the older he got, the better he understood; forgiveness was an act done after the fact - a piece of the bad deeds future - and if you point the people's eyes to the future they might not see what is being done to hurt them in the present.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“I decided that for me, Akosua, I will be my own nation."
As James listened to her speak, he felt something well up inside him as it had never done before. If he could, he would listen to her speak forever. If he could, he would join that nation she spoke of.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Theirs was the kind of life that did not guarantee living.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“They would just trade one type of shackles for another, trade physical ones that wrapped around wrists and ankles for the invisible ones that wrapped around the mind.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“What I know now, my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home. I'm sorry you have suffered. I'm sorry for the way your suffering casts a shadow over your life, over the woman you have yet to marry, the children you have yet to have.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Forgiveness, they shouted, all the while committing their wrongs. When he was younger, Yaw wondered why they did not preach that the people should avoid wrongdoing altogether.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Once the woman decided to get free, she had also decided to stay free... The older Jo =got, the more he understood about the woman he called Ma. The more he understood that sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“A lioness. She mates with her lion and he thinks the moment is about him when it is really about her, her children, her posterity. Her tricki s to make him think that he is king of the bush, but what he does a king matter? Really, she is king and queen and everything in between.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“The convicts working the mines were almost all like him. Black, once slave, once free, now slave again.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“When he was young, his father told him that black people didn't like water because they were brought over on slave ships. What did a black man want to swim for? The ocean floor was already littered with black men.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“She continued. "I love my people, James," she said, and his name on her tongue was indescribably sweet. "I am proud to be Asante, as I am sure you are proud to be Fante, but after I lost my brothers, I decided that as for me, Akosua, I will be my own nation.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“The practice of segregation still meant that Sonny had to see white people sitting at the front of every bus he took, that he got called "boy" by every other snot-nosed white kid in sight. The practice of segregation meant that he had to feel his separateness as inequality, and that was what he could not take.”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

“Split the Castle open,
find me, find you.
We, two, felt sand,
wind, air.
One felt whip. Whipped,
Once shipped.
We, two, black.
Me, you.
One grew from
cocoa's soil, birthed from nut,
skin uncut, still bleeding.
We two, wade.
The waters seem different
but are same.
Our same. Sister skin.
Who knew? Not me. Not you”
― Yaa Gyasi, quote from Homegoing

About the author

Yaa Gyasi
Born place: Ghana
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