Finalist for the Women’s Prize

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed novel Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed.  
 
Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.

Selected for Common Reading at the following colleges and universities:

College of St. Scholastica
Davidson College
Northeastern University

Simmons University
Tulane University
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Portland
University of Wisconsin, Madison
1
 
Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room. For months on end, she colonized that bed like a virus, the first time, when I was child and then again when I was a graduate student. The first time, I was sent to Ghana to wait her out. While there, I was walking through Kejetia market with my aunt when she grabbed my arm and pointed.  “Look a crazy person,” she said in Twi.  “Do you see?  A crazy person.”
 
I was mortified.  My aunt was speaking so loudly, and the man, tall with dust caked into his dreadlocks, was within earshot.  “I see. I see,” I answered in a low hiss.  The man continued past us, mumbling to himself as he waved his hands about in gestures that only he could understand. My aunt nodded, satisfied, and we kept walking past the hordes of people gathered in that agoraphobia-inducing market until we reached the stall where we would spend the rest of the morning attempting to sell knock-off handbags.  In my three months there, we sold only four bags.
 
Even now, I don’t completely understand why my aunt singled the man out to me.  Maybe she thought there were no crazy people in America, that I had never seen one before. Or maybe she was thinking about my mother, about the real reason I was stuck in Ghana that summer, sweating in a stall with an aunt I hardly knew while my mother healed at home in Alabama.  I was eleven, and I could see that my mother wasn’t sick, not in the ways that I was used to. I didn’t understand what my mother needed healing from.  I didn’t understand, but I did.  And my embarrassment at my aunt’s loud gesture had as much to do with my understanding as it did with the man who had passed us by.  My aunt was saying, “That. That is what crazy looks like.” But instead what I heard was my mother’s name.  What I saw was my mother’s face, still as lake water, the pastor’s hand resting gently on her forehead, his prayer a light hum that made the room buzz.  I’m not sure I know what crazy looks like, but even today when I hear the word I picture a split screen, the dreadlocked man in Kejetia on one side, my mother lying in bed on the other.  I think about how no one at all reacted to that man in the market, not in fear or disgust, nothing, save my aunt who wanted me to look.  He was, it seemed to me, at perfect peace, even as he gesticulated wildly, even as he mumbled. 
 
But my mother, in her bed, infinitely still, was wild inside.
  • LONGLIST | 2021
    PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
  • SHORTLIST | 2021
    Women's Prize for Fiction
ONE OF THE GUARDIAN'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Transcendent Kingdom trades the blazing brilliance of Homegoing for another type of glory, more granular and difficult to name.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“Laser-like. . . . A powerful, wholly unsentimental novel about family love, loss, belonging and belief that is more focused but just as daring as its predecessor, and to my mind even more successful. . . . [Transcendent Kingdom] is burningly dedicated to the question of meaning. . . . The pressure created gives her novel a hard, beautiful, diamantine luster.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“Yaa Gyasi’s profoundly moving second novel takes place in the vast, fragile landscape where the mysteries of God and the certainties of science collide. Through deliberate and precise prose, the book becomes an expansive meditation on grief, religion, and family.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A stealthily devastating novel of family, faith and identity that’s as philosophical as it is personal.”
USA Today
 
“Will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.”
Real Simple
 
“Achingly lovely. . . . With her sophomore novel, Gyasi is narrowing her scope. Transcendent Kingdom is the story of one specific girl in one specific family: it is interior, psychological, and deeply focused on sifting through the layers of Gifty’s mind as she studies and prays and experiments to try to find her way to what lies at the core of human beings.”
—Vox
 
“A luminous, heartbreaking and redemptive American story, Transcendent Kingdom is the mark of a brilliant writer who is just getting started.” 
—Seattle Times

“Elegant. . . . Burrows into the philosophical, exploring with complexity what it might mean for us to live without firm answers to the mysteries that wound us. . . . The measured restraint of Gyasi’s prose makes the story’s challenging questions all the more potent.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A study of origin stories and the ways they can be wielded against people, particularly ones who grew up poor and Black. . . . Gyasi has returned to her roots, and they run deeper now.”
The New Republic
 
“Gyasi excels. . . . [Transcendent Kingdom] insightfully explores many pressing issues of our time, and in marrying science with faith, explores the limits and possibilities of both.”
Christian Science Monitor
 
“An evocative portrayal of the immigrant experience and an astutely written character study of an individual reconciling with her past, along with her struggle with faith and science.”
Chicago Review of Books
 
“Haunting. . . . Astute and timely. . . . [A] meditation on life’s big themes of love and loss, and one woman’s quest to understand the human condition as she grapples with both.”
The Women’s Review of Books
 
“Meticulous, psychologically complex. . . . At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Unforgettable. . . . Transcendent Kingdom has an expansive scope that ranges into fresh, relevant territories—much like the title, which suggests a better world beyond the life we inhabit.” BookPage (starred review)
 
“Gyasi’s contemporary novel of a woman’s struggle for connection in a place where science and faith are at odds is a piercingly beautiful tale of love and forgiveness.”
Library Journal
 
“Gyasi’s wise second novel pivots toward intimacy. . . . In precise prose, Gyasi creates an ache of recognition, especially for readers knowledgeable about the wreckage of addiction. Still, she leavens this nonlinear novel with sly humor.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
© Peter Hurley/Vilcek Foundation
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. She lives in Brooklyn.

YAA GYASI is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com or visit prhspeakers.com. View titles by Yaa Gyasi

About

Finalist for the Women’s Prize

Yaa Gyasi’s stunning follow-up to her acclaimed novel Homegoing is a powerful, raw, intimate, deeply layered novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama.

Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed.  
 
Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.

Selected for Common Reading at the following colleges and universities:

College of St. Scholastica
Davidson College
Northeastern University

Simmons University
Tulane University
University of California, Santa Cruz
University of Portland
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Excerpt

1
 
Whenever I think of my mother, I picture a queen-sized bed with her lying in it, a practiced stillness filling the room. For months on end, she colonized that bed like a virus, the first time, when I was child and then again when I was a graduate student. The first time, I was sent to Ghana to wait her out. While there, I was walking through Kejetia market with my aunt when she grabbed my arm and pointed.  “Look a crazy person,” she said in Twi.  “Do you see?  A crazy person.”
 
I was mortified.  My aunt was speaking so loudly, and the man, tall with dust caked into his dreadlocks, was within earshot.  “I see. I see,” I answered in a low hiss.  The man continued past us, mumbling to himself as he waved his hands about in gestures that only he could understand. My aunt nodded, satisfied, and we kept walking past the hordes of people gathered in that agoraphobia-inducing market until we reached the stall where we would spend the rest of the morning attempting to sell knock-off handbags.  In my three months there, we sold only four bags.
 
Even now, I don’t completely understand why my aunt singled the man out to me.  Maybe she thought there were no crazy people in America, that I had never seen one before. Or maybe she was thinking about my mother, about the real reason I was stuck in Ghana that summer, sweating in a stall with an aunt I hardly knew while my mother healed at home in Alabama.  I was eleven, and I could see that my mother wasn’t sick, not in the ways that I was used to. I didn’t understand what my mother needed healing from.  I didn’t understand, but I did.  And my embarrassment at my aunt’s loud gesture had as much to do with my understanding as it did with the man who had passed us by.  My aunt was saying, “That. That is what crazy looks like.” But instead what I heard was my mother’s name.  What I saw was my mother’s face, still as lake water, the pastor’s hand resting gently on her forehead, his prayer a light hum that made the room buzz.  I’m not sure I know what crazy looks like, but even today when I hear the word I picture a split screen, the dreadlocked man in Kejetia on one side, my mother lying in bed on the other.  I think about how no one at all reacted to that man in the market, not in fear or disgust, nothing, save my aunt who wanted me to look.  He was, it seemed to me, at perfect peace, even as he gesticulated wildly, even as he mumbled. 
 
But my mother, in her bed, infinitely still, was wild inside.

Awards

  • LONGLIST | 2021
    PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction
  • SHORTLIST | 2021
    Women's Prize for Fiction

Praise

ONE OF THE GUARDIAN'S BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Transcendent Kingdom trades the blazing brilliance of Homegoing for another type of glory, more granular and difficult to name.”
The New York Times Book Review
 
“Laser-like. . . . A powerful, wholly unsentimental novel about family love, loss, belonging and belief that is more focused but just as daring as its predecessor, and to my mind even more successful. . . . [Transcendent Kingdom] is burningly dedicated to the question of meaning. . . . The pressure created gives her novel a hard, beautiful, diamantine luster.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“Yaa Gyasi’s profoundly moving second novel takes place in the vast, fragile landscape where the mysteries of God and the certainties of science collide. Through deliberate and precise prose, the book becomes an expansive meditation on grief, religion, and family.”
The Boston Globe
 
“A stealthily devastating novel of family, faith and identity that’s as philosophical as it is personal.”
USA Today
 
“Will stay with you long after you’ve finished it.”
Real Simple
 
“Achingly lovely. . . . With her sophomore novel, Gyasi is narrowing her scope. Transcendent Kingdom is the story of one specific girl in one specific family: it is interior, psychological, and deeply focused on sifting through the layers of Gifty’s mind as she studies and prays and experiments to try to find her way to what lies at the core of human beings.”
—Vox
 
“A luminous, heartbreaking and redemptive American story, Transcendent Kingdom is the mark of a brilliant writer who is just getting started.” 
—Seattle Times

“Elegant. . . . Burrows into the philosophical, exploring with complexity what it might mean for us to live without firm answers to the mysteries that wound us. . . . The measured restraint of Gyasi’s prose makes the story’s challenging questions all the more potent.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A study of origin stories and the ways they can be wielded against people, particularly ones who grew up poor and Black. . . . Gyasi has returned to her roots, and they run deeper now.”
The New Republic
 
“Gyasi excels. . . . [Transcendent Kingdom] insightfully explores many pressing issues of our time, and in marrying science with faith, explores the limits and possibilities of both.”
Christian Science Monitor
 
“An evocative portrayal of the immigrant experience and an astutely written character study of an individual reconciling with her past, along with her struggle with faith and science.”
Chicago Review of Books
 
“Haunting. . . . Astute and timely. . . . [A] meditation on life’s big themes of love and loss, and one woman’s quest to understand the human condition as she grapples with both.”
The Women’s Review of Books
 
“Meticulous, psychologically complex. . . . At once a vivid evocation of the immigrant experience and a sharp delineation of an individual’s inner struggle, the novel brilliantly succeeds on both counts.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
“Unforgettable. . . . Transcendent Kingdom has an expansive scope that ranges into fresh, relevant territories—much like the title, which suggests a better world beyond the life we inhabit.” BookPage (starred review)
 
“Gyasi’s contemporary novel of a woman’s struggle for connection in a place where science and faith are at odds is a piercingly beautiful tale of love and forgiveness.”
Library Journal
 
“Gyasi’s wise second novel pivots toward intimacy. . . . In precise prose, Gyasi creates an ache of recognition, especially for readers knowledgeable about the wreckage of addiction. Still, she leavens this nonlinear novel with sly humor.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Author

© Peter Hurley/Vilcek Foundation
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. She lives in Brooklyn.

YAA GYASI is available for select speaking engagements. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com or visit prhspeakers.com. View titles by Yaa Gyasi

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