Yaa Gyasi’s upbringing made her curious about the relationship between a country from which slaves came and the place to which they were brought. She’s a Ghana native, but Gyasi spent most of her life in America. Her family left Ghana when she was a small child, and she lived in Huntsville from age 9 through high school, when she graduated from Grissom High School.
Those influences gelled in her bestselling debut novel, “Homegoing.” The book earned her a spot on the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” list, as well as critical acclaim from all over.
Gyasi is the subject of this week’s episode of Triple Take, the podcast in which we discuss how books, films and music shape us. She said “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill, Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and the movie “Love & Basketball” played a significant role in her development. Each of those artworks has black women at the center, and that helped Gyasi recognize that she, too, could make a living as a creative person.
Yaa Gyasi on “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill
“There is this different atmosphere that you come into when your first work is wildly acclaimed. Before you write the first thing, you get the luxury of believing that no one will ever read it or see it or listen to it. That’s a kind of freedom; you get to make your book or your album or your piece of art look or feel exactly the way you want it to. You get to challenge yourself in certain ways because there’s no audience yet. After that piece of art is released and you see all these eyes on you, it can of course change your perception of how you work because you’re suddenly aware that the next thing you do, people will see.”
Yaa Gyasi on “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison
“It made say sooner than maybe I would have that I wanted to be a writer. I think that was something I had kept inside for many years. Morrison’s work allowed me to feel confident enough to tell people that that’s what I wanted to do with my life.”
Yaa Gyasi on “Love and Basketball”
“I was immediately struck by the power of the female characters in that movie. It’s different than other romantic comedies–or romantic dramadies, as it were. There’s this sense that she doesn’t have to relinquish anything of herself to fall for this guy.”
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