It is onerous, in today’s world of Twitter Trends and spoiler alerts, to not like the same stuff that everyone else does. I mean, thank God I like Game of Thrones because I really feel for those of y’all who don’t (or who can’t afford HBO). If you tell folks something like you ain’t into GoT, people typically give you the
before they just cut you out of the conversation to further analyze the physics behind a dragon breathing icy fire. Same with books and basically every other thing that you are expected to enjoy as much as everyone around you seems to.
Listen. This is all a long-winded confession that I did not find the highly acclaimed and widely recommended book Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi to be all that compelling. I mean, it was okay. Just okay. Some parts were interesting and there was some good writing, but I read the book a few months ago and it has already largely faded from my memory. Some books grab me and hold me and stay with me in my internal life library, but this one has already been boxed up and sent to my metaphorical local Goodwill.
Yet, every time I send out the all-call for book recommendations, you would think that Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Chimamanda Adichie, and Jesus had collaborated to write the next colored folk bible the way that people enthusiastically recommend Homegoing. I haven’t quite figured out the polite way to say, “thank you for your recommendation of this lackluster book that everyone seems to love for some odd reason, but I will not be taking any further recommendations from you, as I no longer trust your judgment.” I guess a simple, “thanks” works too.
Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic. Honestly, reasonable minds can differ drastically when it comes to books. Much more so than movies. If you tell me that the last Transformers movie was good, I’m calling the police immediately. If you tell me that you loved Homegoing, then I respectfully disagree, but I can also accept it. Books fill gaps in us that we sometimes did not even know existed, and every person has a different set of gaps to fill. If you are more full than me after reading Homegoing, then more power to you—I get it. You fill yourself with a book by imagining the places it constructs, the ideas it espouses and the feelings it engenders in your life. Of course people differ about what a book meant to them; unlike film-watching, most of reading is imagining, and our imaginations can certainly take us to different places. So maybe your imaginary Homegoing place looked like you sitting on the beautiful salty ocean of Ghana while sipping a coconut, reconnecting with your stolen roots, and eating perfectly seasoned jollof rice—no, I am not claiming that Ghanaian jollof is better than Nigerian jollof because I am not touching that debate with a 10 foot poll, I have a life I am trying to live here—but that wasn’t my imaginary Homegoing place. Mine looked more like walking up the part of 125th st in Harlem where dudes with pointy ass fake gator shoes are trying to sell you tubs of shea butter and aunties want to braid your hair (and then have the whole nerve to look you up and down and suck their teeth when you say no thanks because you just got it done, *like it doesn’t still look good,* and then you are about to slap a bi—but I digress).
I enjoy a leisurely stroll up 125th street, for the culture, but in reading Homegoing, I felt like someone, who knows that I’m southern and enjoy soul food, recommended to me that I try brunch at Sylvia’s for the first time. So, I walked through the shea-butter-aunty section of 125th to get there only to actually eat the food, and it wasn’t like home at all…and it was overpriced. All books give you something, whether you love them or not. This one gave me a blog post about not loving the same stuff everyone is so hyped over. Hopefully I get some book recommendations this year that are better able to take me to the beach in Ghana or else it is going to be a long ass year of shea butter and braids pulling my edges too tight.