Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Reading is a newfound love of mine, and Transcendent Kingdom is the book that started it all. I read this book at the very beginning of 2021 and after completing it in just a few days I sat in silence and realized this was the first time in my more than two decades of living (and schooling) that I had ever seen myself so wholly reflected in a book.
Gifty, the protagonist, is the child of Ghanaian parents, raised in a predominantly white, very religious, and racially micro aggressive community, who turns to her formal education looking for answers to life’s most asked questions. I mean, is that not me?! Of course switch out Ghanaian for Nigerian because naija no dey carry last, #nigerianjollof, insert all of my Nigerian pride here — but I was dumbstruck, for the first time in my life I found me in a book, a novel at that!
Growing up I always knew I loved reading. I say “I knew” in the same way someone exclaims “I knew it!” when a secret they knew to be true finally comes to light. My love of books was not evident as a child or adolescent, as a matter of fact it was constantly contradicted by the number of books I started and never finished.
As I read Transcendent Kingdom I was repeatedly surprised by and welcomed into a realm of familiarity. I could relate to Gifty’s experiences, to her perspective and her worries. I contemplated this experience in comparison to adolescent me, suspicious that I was a bookworm but absolutely bereft of evidence, and thought to myself Is this what all my white bookworm peers were feeling the whole time??
Transcendent Kingdom was a revelation to me. I am a reader, I am nwanyị akwụkwọ, and I always knew it. After reading Transcendent Kingdom I made a goal to read more. I originally wanted to aim for 52 books in 2021, one book per week, but I decided to err on the side of caution, and my track record, and just go for “more.” Joke’s on me though because here I am two-thirds of the way through the year and I’m on book 40!
Since Transcendent Kingdom, I’ve found my neighborhood in the book world so to speak. I’ve communed with stories that remind me of me and my life, and I’ve empathized with characters and people whose experiences I never even thought to consider. I am surely indebted to Yaa Gyasi for writing the book which opened for me a door of unthinkable discovery.
2 thoughts on “I Knew It!”
Wow! A very relevant discovery! I note that this was unexpected, and only came from your love for books or at least, reading. I will pick up my love for books or at least read Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, that I might “know” you.
Loved this ❤️