Sleeping with Machetes


At the New York Times, Isabel Wilkerson reviews Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing. In this new novel, Gyasi explores the consequences of slavery in 18th-century America and West Africa:

Throughout, the focus is on the wounds inflicted on the colonized and the enslaved. The villages of West Africa come alive as Gyasi conjures a world of hand-swept compounds, families sharing goat pepper soup, men sleeping with machetes under their beds to protect against capture. Just as the Europeans intruded upon the world of the native people of America, so did they sow disorder in the West African kingdoms, exploiting pre-existing ­rivalries. Old alliances fell to human greed to satisfy a ruthless market. Asante traders collected captives; Fante or Ewe middlemen would sell them to the British or Dutch, “whoever was paying the most at the time,” as Effia’s grandson, James, describes the family business of kidnapping and selling human beings.

Olivia Wetzel is a student taking time off to live and work in San Francisco. If she could be any animal, she’d be a penguin. She’s never eaten pepperoni before, and one of her feet is a whole size bigger than the other. More from this author →