Who? Yaa Gyasi is the Ghanaian-American author of Homegoing – the slavery tale that US Vogue claims ‘re-imagines the American novel’ and has earned the 27-year-old a $1-million advance.
What’s her story? English graduate Yaa – whose first story aged seven was called Just Me and My Dog – says she was inspired to write Homegoing while on a trip to her mother’s hometown in Ghana in 2009 (her family moved to the US when she was two so that her father could complete his PhD).
It was on a tour of the former slave-trading fort Cape Coast Castle – ‘going from the grandeur of upstairs where the slave traders worked to the dungeons below’ – that she realised what she wanted to write about: ‘The idea of placing two people together; the wife of someone above and one of the slaves below.’
Page-turner The riveting result seamlessly traces events over eight generations and two countries. ‘I hope it shows that much of what we’re dealing with [the legacy of slavery] didn’t appear out of nowhere,’ she says. ‘When you see things that are happening today, remember to put them in the context of history.’
Yaa describes the acclaim that bestseller Homegoing has received as ‘completely overwhelming’. Her highlight? The novel is inspiring readers to dig into their own family history. ‘That response from people is really cool.’
Next up? She’s hard at work on her next novel – when she can find time to write. ‘I’ve never been this busy before.’
Homegoing is published by Penguin Books, price £12.99. To order a copy for the special price of £9.74 until 2 April, go to you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; free p&p on orders over £15