Travel from 18th Century Ghana to Present-day America with “A Novel Idea” and Yaa Gyasi’s "Homegoing"

Posted By:  Tina Walker Davis
Date Posted:  3/22/2017

Deschutes Public Library proudly announces the 14th annual celebration of “A Novel Idea…Read Together,” the largest community read program in the state of Oregon. Each year “A Novel Idea” brings together thousands of Deschutes County residents to read, discuss and attend a variety of free cultural and author events at the Library’s six branches and at partnering businesses. With this year’s selection of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, the Library anticipates the highly successful program’s continued growth.

“Once again the ‘A Novel Idea’ selection will take us to new places and times,” says Community Relations Manager Chantal Strobel. “Books selected in the past have taken readers from Afghanistan to the Manhattan, and Papua New Guinea to Japan, as well as to time periods that span centuries. Homegoing promises to not only take readers to new places, but to bring new ideas and topics into the conversation,” she continued.


“The growth of ‘A Novel Idea’ has been remarkable,” says Strobel. “Back in 2004, our first year, we were thrilled to have 600 people participate. Last year we had more than 6,000 people take part. It’s really a testament to the community’s commitment to literature as well as to their growing desire to be life-long learners.”

“A Novel Idea” kicks off on Saturday, April 8, at 2:00 p.m. at the East Bend Library with a conversation exploring cultural appropriation, led by artist and speaker Jason Graham (aka, MOsley WOtta). What follows is four weeks of programs that explore and expound upon the themes and ideas found in Gyasi’s widely acclaimed novel.


“The free programs are designed to enhance the readers’ experience by providing a common forum in which they can discuss ideas, discover culture, create art and explore similarities and differences in a safeand neutral environment,” says Liz Goodrich, lead project coordinator for “A Novel Idea.” “This year we’ve curated a range of historical and cultural programs that look at the role of storytelling in Ghanaian culture, the experiences of black pioneers in early Oregon, the transatlantic slave trade, African American literature, and so much more. We of course include book discussions and documentary film screenings, as well,” says Goodrich.

The events culminate with a free presentation by author Yaa Gyasi Sunday, May 7, at 4:00 p.m. at the Bend High School Auditorium. A book signing follows Gyasi’s presentation. Tickets are required for the free event and become available on April 15 at or at any Deschutes Public Library.

Reader’s guides will be available at each of the public libraries in Deschutes County beginning March 22. Free book club kits are available upon request—and while supplies last—by calling 541-312-1032.

About the Book: Homegoing
The New York Times bestselling novel Homegoing begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.


About the Author: Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. Her short stories have appeared in African American Review and Callaloo. Homegoing is her debut novel.

About the Donors

“A Novel Idea” is made possible by generous donors: Oregon Cultural Trust, Capsugel, Oregon Arts Commission, The Bulletin Oregon Humanities, The Roundhouse Foundation, William Smith Properties, Pacific Power Foundation, the E.H. and M.E. Bowerman Advised Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, and The Friends Organizations of the Deschutes Public Library. This program is supported by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust. Deschutes Public Library Foundation receives support from the Oregon Arts Commission, a state agency funded by the state of Oregon and the National Endowment for the Arts.


About the Programs

All programs are free. No registration is required unless noted.


Appropriation vs. Appreciation

Join artist and educator Jason Graham, a slam poetry champion and speaker who performs hip hop as MOsley WOtta, for a conversation exploring cultural appropriation. Jason shares some of his own spoken word poetry as well as other examples of artists who may or may not have crossed the line.


Second Sunday: Thomas DeWolf

DeWolf is the author of Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History. In 2001 he traveled with nine distant relatives on a life-altering journey through New England, Ghana, and Cuba to film the Emmy-nominated documentary film, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. DeWolf reads excerpts from his book, shares images from his family’s journey, and shows film clips from the documentary.


Tracing the History of African American Literature

From slave narratives to contemporary novels, Dr. Annemarie Hamlin explores the roots of African American literature. Once marginalized as representing a small portion of the American tradition, African American writers are now included in most contemporary college-level surveys of American literature.


Ancestral Wisdom: The Role of Storytelling, Music, and Dance in Traditional Ghanaian Cultures

Discover the role storytelling, music, and dance plays in Ghanaian culture with Dr. Habib Iddrisu from the University of Oregon.


Blacks in Early Oregon

Gwen Carr, current board secretary of the Oregon Black Pioneers, presents an overview of black history in Oregon beginning in 1788. Primarily focused on the 1800s, Carr’s presentation includes a couple of surprises that involve Central Oregon black pioneers.


Pendant Making*

Half-sisters Effia and Esi are both given pendants from their mother Maame in Homegoing. Chandra vanEijnsbergen, Community Librarian and jewelry maker, leads a pendant-making workshop. Craft your own based on the pendant worn by Effia and her descendants and lost by Esi in the dungeon at Cape Coast Castle. *Space limited; registration required at or call 541-312-1032.


Holmes vs. Ford 1852: Oregon’s Only Slavery Trial

R. Gregory Nokes, author of Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, shares the story of Missouri slaves Robin and Polly Holmes and their children. The couple was freed but their children remained in bondage. In 1852 Holmes took his former master to court in an attempt to get his children back in what is the only slavery trial in Oregon history.


The Transatlantic Slave Trade: A Capitalist Enterprise

Dr. Carmen Thompson of Portland State University discusses how the exploitation of African labor through transatlantic and internal slave trading led to the development of an early capitalist Europe, bolstering it and ultimately the United States into world superpowers.


Screen Birth of a Movement

Based on Dick Lehr’s book The Birth of a Movement: How ‘Birth of a Nation’ Ignited the Battle for Civil Rights, the documentary Birth of a Movement tells the story of William M. Trotter, Boston-based African American newspaper editor and activist. In 1915 Trotter waged a crusade against D.W. Griffith’s technically groundbreaking but notoriously Ku Klux Klan-friendly The Birth of a Nation, igniting a battle still raging today about race relations, media representation, and the power and influence of Hollywood. Sponsored by COCC Multicultural Activities.


Screen Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North

The documentary follows the descendants of their slaveholding family as they retrace the steps of the Triangle Slave Trade. Long-time Central Oregon resident Tom DeWolf is featured in the film and facilitates the post-screening discussion.


Community Art Display: Homegoing Inspired Art Exhibit

April 12-July 11 | Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall Street, Bend


Book Club Discussions

Wednesday, March 22, 5:30 p.m. | Sisters Library, 110 North Cedar Street, Sisters

Monday, March 27, 6:00 p.m. | Herringbone Books, 422 SW 6th Street, Redmond

Wednesday, April 5, 6:00 p.m. | Roundabout Books, 900 NW Washington Drive, #110, Bend

Thursday, April 13, noon | Downtown Bend Library, 601 NW Wall Street, Bend

Thursday, April 13, noon | Redmond Library, 827 SW Deschutes Avenue, Redmond

Monday, April 17, 6:00 p.m. | Sunriver Books & Music, 57100 Beaver Drive, #25C, The Village at Sunriver

Tuesday, April 18, noon | East Bend Library, 62080 Dean Swift Road, Bend

Thursday, April 20, noon | La Pine Library, 16425 1st Street, La Pine


For more information about A Novel Idea, please contact Liz Goodrich at (541) 312-1032 or Check out the “A Novel Idea” website at for event listings and author information.


Page Last Modified Wednesday, March 8, 2023