Yaa Gyasi

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Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi, 9 27 (36709389003) (cropped).jpg
Born1989 (age 31–32)
Mampong, Ghana
EducationStanford University (BA)
University of Iowa (MFA)
Notable worksHomegoing (2016)
Notable awards

Yaa Gyasi (born 1989) is a Ghanaian-American novelist. Her debut novel, Homegoing, published in 2016, won her, at the age of 26, the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award for best first book, the PEN/Hemingway Award for a first book of fiction, the National Book Foundation's "5 under 35" honors for 2016 and the American Book Award. She was awarded a Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature in 2020.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Mampong, Ghana,[2] she is the daughter of Kwaku Gyasi, a professor of French at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and Sophia, who is a nurse.[3][4] Her family moved to the United States in 1991 when her father was completing his Ph.D. at Ohio State University.[2][5] The family also lived in Illinois and Tennessee, and from the age of 10, Gyasi was raised in Huntsville, Alabama.[2][6]

Gyasi recalls being shy as a child, feeling close to her brothers for their shared experiences as young immigrant children in Alabama, and turning to books as her "closest friends".[5] She received a certificate of achievement signed by LeVar Burton after submitting the first story she wrote to the Reading Rainbow Young Writers and Illustrators Contest, which encouraged her, and after reading Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon while attending Grissom High School at the age of 17, she was inspired to choose a career in writing.[5]

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Stanford University, and a Master of Fine Arts from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a creative writing program at the University of Iowa.[6][7]


Shortly after graduating from Stanford, she began her debut novel and worked at a startup company in San Francisco, but she did not enjoy the work and resigned after she was accepted to Iowa in 2012.[7]

Her debut novel Homegoing was inspired by a 2009 trip to Ghana, Gyasi's first since leaving the country as an infant. The novel was completed in 2015, and after initial readings from publishers, was met with numerous offers before she accepted a seven-figure advance from Knopf.[7] Ta-Nehisi Coates selected Homegoing for the National Book Foundation's 2016 "5 under 35" award,[6] and the novel also was selected for the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award, the PEN/Hemingway award for best first book, and the American Book Award for contributions to diversity in American literature.[8][9][10][11]

Her writing has also appeared in such publications as African American Review,[12] Callaloo,[13] Guernica[14] The Guardian,[15] and Granta.[16]

Gyasi cites Toni Morrison (Song of Solomon), Gabriel García Márquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), James Baldwin (Go Tell It on the Mountain), Edward P. Jones (Lost in the City), and Jhumpa Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth) as inspirations.[5][7][17]

As of 2016, Gyasi lived in Berkeley, California.[7][10]




  1. ^ a b "Yaa Gyasi". Vilcek Foundation. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Maloney, Jennifer (May 26, 2016). "Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Born in Ghana and Raised in the U.S." Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  3. ^ Anderson-Maples, Joyce (December 2, 2016). "UAH welcomes Yaa Gyasi, author of The New York Times best-selling book Homegoing". The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Haskin, Shelly (August 28, 2016). "How an Alabama author's debut novel landed her on 'The Daily Show'". AL.com. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Begley, Sarah (June 5, 2016). "A 26-Year-old Looks to the Past for Her Literary Debut". TIME.com. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c "Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing, 5 Under 35, 2016, National Book Foundation". www.nationalbook.org. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d e Wolfe, Eli (June 28, 2016). "How Yaa Gyasi found her story in slavers' outpost". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  8. ^ Associated Press (August 4, 2017). "Debut novelist among winners of American Book Awards". The Washington Times. ISSN 0190-8286.
  9. ^ Alter, Alexandra (January 17, 2017), "Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon Among National Book Critics Circle Finalists", The New York Times.
  10. ^ a b "PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction". PEN New England. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  11. ^ "100 Notable Books of 2016". The New York Times. November 21, 2016. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  12. ^ AAR African American Review.
  13. ^ "Yaa Gyasi", National Book Festival, Library of Congress.
  14. ^ Yaa Gyasi, "Inscape", Guernica, June 15, 2015.
  15. ^ "Yaa Gyasi: ‘I write a sentence. I delete it. I wonder if it’s too early for lunch’", The Guardian, October 28, 2017.
  16. ^ Gyasi, Yaa, "Leaving Gotham City", Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3, April 25, 2017.
  17. ^ "Five books: The books that influenced Yaa Gyasi". Penguin. 2016. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  18. ^ Admin (March 16, 2017). "National Book Critics Circle: National Book Critics Circle Announces 2016 Award Winners - Critical Mass Blog". bookcritics.org. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  19. ^ Catan, Wayne (May 31, 2017). "Interview with Yaa Gyasi, 2017 PEN/Hemingway Award Winner". www.hemingwaysociety.org. The Hemingway Society. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  20. ^ "2017 American Book Awards announced". Before Columbus Foundation. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  21. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn, and Michael Schaub (April 26, 2017), "Granta names 21 of the best young American novelists", The Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ "Granta’s list of the best young American novelists", The Guardian, April 26, 2017.
  23. ^ Onwuemezi, Natasha (April 26, 2017), "Granta reveals its Best of Young US Novelists 2017", The Bookseller.

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