If You Read One Book This Year, Make It Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom

If you read one book that comes out in 2020, please let it be Yaa Gyasi’s second novel, Transcendent Kingdom. Narrated by Gifty, a sixth-year PhD candidate at Stanford who’s studying neuroscience, the book explores everything from what it’s like to be a female in the hard sciences to crushing family tragedies to identifying as a second-generation Ghanian immigrant growing up the South.

Multilayered and beautifully written, we see Gifty — who has a preference for order and infallible evidence — attempt to make sense of her mother’s depression and her late brother Nana’s heroin overdose. Although reading about opioid addiction can be incredibly hard, writing about it is much harder. Gyasi’s heartbreaking description of Nana’s struggle to overcome his OxyCotin-turned-heroin addiction after a basketball injury is unfortunately all too common in the US. Because the opioid epidemic is often portrayed by the media as an issue that mostly plagues white people, Gyasi shows that opiates don’t discriminate by race.

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