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Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi book review

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi book review


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi book review



Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. This is the second book from yaa gyasi that she's published. Her debut novel was homegoing, which is one of my all-time favorite books. 

And i was very excited to see that she had a new book coming out. If for some reason you are watching this and you haven't read homegoing yet, just go pick that up. 

That is a book that i can give sort of as a blanket recommendation to literally anyone in the world. So this book follows gifty who is of ghanian descent. She is at stanford medical school and she is working on her PhD. 

And she's studying sort of the neurological impacts of depression and addiction. And this research is directly related to her own life and history. 

Her mother suffers from depression and her brother died of a drug overdose when he was in like high school. So that's basically like all you need to know about this book, generally, in terms of like plot and synopsis. 

This isn't a heavy plotted book. So i will say just sort of off the bat with just giving that like very brief synopsis that this book is wholly different from homegoing. That is not meant to be a negative or positive statement. 

That is just what it is. And so if you go into this book wanting another homegoing, you you will be disappointed, 1000%. But if you are willing to take this book for what it is, then i think you will thoroughly enjoy this book. 

So i will admit that like for myself when i first picked this book up, it took me a minute to really acclimate myself to what was actually happening in this book and to kind of ignore homegoing almost and to just see this book for what it was and then to fully like fall in love with it. 

So if it wasn't clear, i love this book. This book feels more literary than homegoing. Homegoing feels very commercial. 

And like i said at the beginning, homegoing is a book that i would recommend to basically anyone who came to me looking for book recommendations.

 To that point, literally everyone in my life who has asked me for book recommendations in the past like five years or whatever has probably heard me talk about homegoing. This is not necessarily the same thing. 

So like this is a book that i would recommend to people if they have more like literary inclinations to their reading. 

So if you're someone who's like brand new to reading or is getting back into reading after being away from it for a while, i feel like homegoing has a more like commercial and plot-driven-ness to it compared to this book. 

This book is significantly slower, a lot more like thoughtful and thought-provoking. Which again those aren't meant to be like positive or negative attributes to either book, they just are their own thing and so they're going to appeal to people in different ways. The way this book is written is from a first person perspective. 

So gifty is telling you the story about her life and her research and why she's doing what she's doing and things that have happened in her life and things along those lines. 

And so there's a part of this book that has a very like memoir-esque feel to it. There were points when i was reading this book where i was just like very overcome with the fact that like if you had handed me 

this book without like a title or author anything like that and told me it was a memoir, i 100% would have believed it because it feels like a memoir in many ways because gifty is basically reflecting on her life and her career 

her family history to kind of figure out like why she is where she's at and the things that she feels and the choices that she's made over the course of her life and how her history impacts all of that, or influences all of that i should say. 

So there's a lot of this book that is just sort of like ruminating on the experiments that gifty is doing and her then sort of thinking about the fact that like her experiences with her family, 

with her mother falling into deep depressions and her brother getting addicted to oxycontin and then leading to harder drugs before overdosing, how she's hoping to find some sort of hope in science in order to kind of explain those things away.

And there's a part of her that wants to almost be able to fix these things for other people so they don't have to go through the things that she had to go through growing up. 

And even though these events happened to her when she was like relatively young, even though she's like an adult now getting her phd, you can tell she's still grieving the loss of her family. 

There's a point in this book where she talks about the fact that like basically all that's left of her family is her and her mother. And her mother like basically falls into a deep depression again at the beginning of the book and gifty is reflecting on the fact that like if she doesn't help her mom and get her to like eat and take care of herself and stuff like that then it's just gonna be her. 

And the sort of grief of that, in and of itself, is like so sad and moving and things like that but sort of this reality that this character has to figure out and come into contact with and things like that. 

There are also just like a lot of things in here that just felt so honest and poignant and things that like personally i feel like aren't talked about very much. 

Like just like these little quiet scenes that like happen in real life but you don't really see reflected in fiction. 

So one of the things is this tension that gifty feels about talking about her family and her past, partially because she's been through so much and partially also because it's kind of like awkward and there's no good social cues or rules about like talking about things like grief. 

She talks about how there are certain people in her life who like don't know that she has a brother because talking about someone in your life who's passed away and died like immediately brings down the mood for everyone else, even though that's not really the point of it. 

But also she doesn't want like people in her life, especially like when she gets into these like science and doctorate programs, she doesn't want like everyone analyzing her and her mom and her brother and stuff like that and sort of putting more on gifty than what she's willing to have put on her. 

Even though there are other books out there about like grief and grieving and stuff like that, it's those sort of like small quiet moments that really appeal to me a lot. 

These sort of like inner conflicts that you feel when you are grieving someone, when you've lost someone that you don't ever externally vocalize i suppose or externally express but they happen. 

Those are the things that are like really, really beautiful in this book. There's also a significant part of this book that is all about like faith and searching for faith and truth and god and all of that sort of stuff. 

Gifty herself has a basically like pentecostal, evangelical background to her. She was brought up in a church and stuff like that and she like believed in god when she was younger and then she basically stopped believing in god. 

And now as an adult, she's kind of in the middle. And you see her sort of grappling with that and you can see she's basically like explaining about her own faith journey in this book. And again, the way that I'm talking about it, it says this is a memoir and it's not but that's how like well crafted this book is. 

Anyways that's as tangent. But yeah, you basically see gifty grappling with her own faith journey, about how she is trying to reconcile the god that she knew growing up and then believing that that god doesn't exist anymore, 

and then now as an adult being slightly more open to the idea of having-- of there being a god out there. 

And also like sort of the conflict that comes into play like being a scientist and looking for truth and answers in science but also kind of recognizing that there are limits to science and also that some of it might just be a god thing, 

kind of figuring out your own sort of balance in what you believe is true and not true and what you're willing to leave open as like potentially true but there's no way for you to really know for sure. 

Because i feel like whether you have some sort of faith background or not or believe in god or not, you have to come to a point where you're going to recognize that there's a limit to how much you are going to know in your lifetime and the answers that you're going to get. 

There's this really beautiful passage that i posted on my instagram. If you follow me and you look at my instagram stories you may have seen me post this. 

This is gifty talking about a biology teacher that she had while she was in high school who was a christian. "Mrs pasternack said something else that year that i never forgot. She said the truth is we don't know what we don't know. 

We don't even know the questions we need to ask in order to find out. But when we learn one tiny thing, a dim light comes on in a dark hallway and suddenly a new question appears. We spend decades, centuries, millennia trying to answer that one question so that another dim light will come on. 

That's science but that's also everything else, isn't it? Try, experiment, ask a ton of questions." So yeah, this book is full of paragraphs and sentences just like that. 

This book is beautiful and it's thoughtful and i also just realized that i'm wearing my space shirt while talking about it which feels very poignant but i didn't do that on purpose. So yeah, i think that this is a book worth reading. 

Again, it is not homegoing by any stretch but this book is beautiful. Like yaa gyasi can write a book. And if anything, like yaa gyasi feels to me like one of the writers who feels pretty close to being able to pick up the mantle that toni morrison left behind. 

Not that anyone will ever compare to toni morrison. But based on these two books, she's definitely a contender for it. And i definitely feel like, again, this one is definitely her more literary book but that isn't again a bad or good thing or anything like that. 

It's just in and of itself its own thing which i feel like is kind of amazing. Because for the most part most writers, when they release a book, you know what you're getting. 

But now with yaa gyasi, i feel like i won't know what her next book will be. But i am still 100% here for whatever she writes. 

It's a book that i kind of want to reread and like annotate this book and stuff like that because, again, there's just like really, really beautiful thoughts explored in here and a lot of really beautiful questions asked that i feel like i haven't experienced a whole lot of in literature. 

And maybe that's just on me. But yeah, it's really beautiful, really poignant, and a beautiful exploration of like grief and identity and things along those lines. 

So yeah, I loved it. It's great. So those are my quick thoughts on transcendent kingdom by yaa gyasi. 


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