An Activity Guide

Classroom Connections to Homegoing

 Students will use this activity to connect the plot of Homegoing with their own personal life. The purpose of this classroom activity is to connect the theme of family separation through slavery.

Supplies Needed

  • Model Magic, PlayDOH, or similar material
  • String
  • Beads
  • Paper and pencils if needed by students
  • scissors



  • Recalling family structures from Homegoing to understand family history on contemporary understanding
  • Mapping student family structures to understand their own family unit
  • Experiencing the connections and the effects of slavery on family units


Activity Description

  1. The students will begin the class period by freewriting.
    1. The students will use this time to reflect on what their family units look like in the present. The family units the students write about do not have to be biological.
    2. Afterwards, the students will break into pairs or small groups and discuss their family trees and what they represent to them. The values instilled in them based off their family structures.
    3. Once the students finish the discussion, they will talk about the family tree in
  2. The professor will hand out the clay, Model Magic, PlayDOH, or other similar material to each of the students
    1. Students will use the modeling clay to construct trees
      1. The trees will represent their family unit—related and chosen.
    2. Students will then tie beads to the tree branches with the string.
      1. The beads will be used to create “leaves.”
      2. The “leaves” will represent each member of their created family.
    3. Once the students complete their trees, they will use scissors to cut off two of the branches.
      1. The students will be asked to imagine what their family structure will look like if the two most important members are removed.
    4. Students will then break into pairs or small groups
      1. Students will discuss how Homegoing helped influence their decision.
      2. Students will discuss how their lives would be different if the members they chose were not apart of their growth.

Example: Would the students still be able to reach their goals/attend college?

Follow-Up Questions

Discussion questions will help the students reflect on their learning, experiences, and life connections through Homegoing. Discussion questions are an important element to conclude the experiential activity. The questions also help support the meaningful socio-emotional processing of the deep concepts Gyasi covers, and the curricular connections to your classroom.


  1. What does family mean to you?
  2. What does culture mean to you?
  3. What does the culture on Millersville’s campus look like?
  4. How does changing family structures affect the success of students/children?
  5. How do broken family units affect the dynamic of Millersville’s campus?




A Letter to Students

Dear Millersville Students,

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, takes a nontraditional approach to teach about the effects of slavery on youth and families. Homegoing is set in Africa, and later America, and explores the generational stories as two sisters were separated due to white settlements and enslavement in Africa, following the descendants through Africa and America.

As students of Millersville University, it is our duty to continue to learn and grow as scholars. One way to do that is to read literature that builds stories that include difficult topics. By reading this literature, students can expand their academics to more than just the classroom. Literature should be used to connect the bridge between students in the classroom and create a diverse environment.

Traditionally in school, students are taught about slavery through the perspective of settlers. However, Homegoing looks at the generational psychological and environmental effects of slavery on enslaved children and young adults. Thus, creating an important, exciting, and thought provoking read.

Students should read Homegoing because it challenges us to think in a creative way. Each student can learn about their own family dynamics and the dynamics of others through Homegoing.



Jessie Garrison

Jessie Garrison, Class of 2019, English Major-Writing Studies

Discussion Questions for “Homegoing”

One of the most valuable elements of reading is talking about reading! The One Book One Campus committee worked with Dr. Emily Baldys and Jessie Garrison to develop the following discussion questions that can be adapted and modified to fit situational needs. This can also be accessed on the Resources page.

Effia & Essi (pp. 1-49)

In Essi’s chapter we learn that Maame, Effie and Essie’s mother had many pieces of her spirit missing. Consider the experiences that make you, as a student, less than whole.

Another theme found in this chapter is family relationships. As a student how does your family relationships affect your ability to succeed as a student? Do peer/peer relationships affect success among college students?

In the chapter there is differences between Effia’s values and her husband James’ values. In what ways does Millersville students have different values? Similar values? Do the differences between values affect the Millersville community as a whole? Do the differences in values affect separate communities?

Maame’s definition of strength is “knowing everyone belongs to themselves” (38). What is your definition of strength? Does the Millersville community help grow your strengths? What tools do you use at Millersville to help yourself grow?

Quey & Ness (pp. 50-87)

Quey, the son of Effia and James, often discussed his struggles on finding an environment where he felt like he “belonged, fully and completely” (57). While Quey finds his sense of belonging through the chapter, how can students at Millersville find their sense of belonging? Is it different for traditional and nontraditional students; commuters and students living on campus?

Quey’s definition of strength is determining “he would not be weak. He was in the business of slavery, and sacrifices had to be made” (69). What do students have to sacrifice to go to college? Are the sacrifices different for not traditional students, parents, not typical college age, transfers? How does Quey’s definition of strength differ from Maame? Does the different definitions effect your response?

In Ness’ chapter there are characters, Esi and Sam, who refuse to speak English while others, Pinky, refuse to speak entirely. How does this affect the relationship between the characters? How does language barriers affect relationships between students on campus?

Ness feels that her scarred skin is “more like the ghost of the past” (4). How do students hide their own ghosts to fit in on campus?

James & Kojo (pp.88-132)

In Kojo first learns about the Fugitive Slave Act, he does not believe it can affect him or his family. What changes on campus has affected you in ways you didn’t think were possible?

In another part of Kojo’s chapter, he teaches his children to show their “free” papers to federal marshals if stopped on the streets. Kojo taught his children to show their papers “without any backtalk, always silently” (125). With the increase in ICE raids throughout the country, how would this tactic affect the Millersville community? If ICE came to campus how would it disrupt the campus? Would it be for the long run or just in the moment?

James’ father Quey feels as if Christianity is for the British and it does not meet his values of his own customs. How does the diversity of different religions enhance Millersville’s campus? How would campus be different without the diversity? How has previous racial remarks on campus affected diversity on campus?

Abena & H (pp. 133-176)

During Abena’s section, there is a village meeting regarding the slave trade. James insists that there is shared responsibility in slavery and that the blame should not just go on the British and Dutch. How does this relate to student’s responsibility in creating an inclusive campus?

Abena also has a relationship with Ohene Nyarko in this section. Consider how the betrayal affects Abena’s everyday life, how can students at Millersville help their peers during unhealthy relationships? What resources are available on campus to assist those in unhealthy relationships?

H was arrested in his section. How does incarceration affect Millersville students’ ability to succeed?

Akua & Willie (pp. 177-221)

Akua begins to have anxiety dreams about a firewoman. How does anxiety and other mental illnesses affect the Millersville community? How does these illnesses affect the minority groups on campus differently than the non-minority groups? What resources are available to students?

Willie’s chapter is set in an urban town in the NorthEastern United States. During this time, Willie and Robert can note on the inequalities that are still present in the north. When moving to Millersville University, what inequalities might a person of color face when they come to the more conservative Lancaster? As a community, what can we do to combat these inequalities?

In Willie’s chapter, the reader can find Willie singing. In what ways can Millersville include music and art from other cultures to promote diversity and inclusion?



Yaw & Sonny (pp. 222-263)

Yaw argues that “history is storytelling” and “when you study history, you must always ask yourself, whose story am I missing” (225)? On Millersville’s campus what is the student body/professors missing? How can the students and professors hear the whole story?

In the story Sonny goes to jail, what influences, political and personal, lead him to jail, an absent father, and addiction? What affects students on Millersville’s campus to make the same choices? What resources are available? Is the political factors for minorities and nonminority different?

Marjorie & Marcus (pp. 264-300)

Marjorie and Marcus also feel like they do not belong. Marcus, specifically, “searches for answers” (290). In what ways does minority and nontraditional students have to work harder to “fit in” on Millersville’s campus?

Marcus also explains that his ancestors “had been products of their time” (296). In what ways does Millersville’s students’ ancestors affect the behavior of the campus?