Set Fire to the Rain

I learned a ton in journalism school that I often sprinkle into my blog posts — much more than the curriculum promised. For example, I finally recognized why, as a kid, I always asked the million questions that annoyed my family. I was and always will be a curious person, which is a direct reflection of my passion for school and learning. I’m grateful to have realized it’s possible to make a career focused on asking questions and discovery.

Another realization I had that wasn’t directly taught in lectures or in textbooks but by my professors through on-the-job training is that writing and reporting without bias is impossible. No matter how hard we try, our experiences always find a way to creep into the things we feel and by extension what we say and write. Even the profession itself has bias. If you’re a journalist, that means you care about people, storytelling, and the truth. Those feelings catalyze bias too.

This is basically a long way for me to get to my main point here: Bias reflects our opinions of and experiences with books too. I’d wanted to read Here Comes the Sun for quite some time. I mean, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous — though don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a sunny read. It tells stories of disenfranchised and disadvantaged yet strong women living in a world most of us could never imagine. It’s a book to which someone like me — a former journalist, a curious cat, and a storyteller — would be drawn.

But if we are constantly being influenced by our surroundings, then my initial opinions of this book stemmed from the four walls of my apartment and constant news reports of the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with my start to this book. My emotions have been on the most intense and terrifying roller coaster, and every time I picked up this novel, its hopelessness engulfed me. At times, I thought about not finishing it. Once I realized, though, that my personal experience in the present was affecting my experience with the novel, I could appreciate it for all it was professing: This world has suffering so great and people have to make choices so tough that they can’t be comprehended.

Here Comes the Sun

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Rebelling from English Classes of Yore

The Specs

  • What: Homegoing
  • Who: Yaa Gyasi (debut novel)
  • Pages: 300
  • Genre: Historical fiction
  • Subgenre: African American studies
  • Published: 2016
  • The lit: 1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px1463390917-2400px of 5 flames

Remember those early English classes where the teacher would write “protagonist” and “antagonist” on the board and stress their significance to every story? There was always a conflict between the two, but then sometimes the story really threw you for a loop and gave you a bad protagonist. I’m pretty sure certain stories were chosen in elementary curriculum to illustrate this mere fact: Your main character doesn’t have to be a good person (as if a story’s cast is that obtuse and lacks complexity). And wait a minute. Could an object, and not a human or dog, be the antagonist or protagonist? I swan.

Well, Yaa Gyasi must have taken issue with that literature lesson because her debut novel Homegoing employs neither protagonist nor antagonist. Although the story plays host to many actors, not one takes center stage. I didn’t have a chance to choose sides, despise someone, wish they would act differently, love a little harder. Homegoing didn’t rely on a central character or plot to lead me; it rests instead on a historical arc, one that lasts about two centuries.

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