by Sage Marmet
Yaa Gyasi’s epigraph in Homegoing, an Akan proverb, rings so undeniably true about families and each of their respective dynamics. The epigraph reads, “Abusua te sε kwaε: sε wo wↄ akyire a wo hunu sε εbom; sε wo bεn ho a na wo hunu sε nnua no bia sisi ne baabi nko” which translates to “the family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position.”
This concept is developed within the first chapter “Effia.” To individuals outside of Effia’s family, they appear to be close and she appears to be a prized “beautiful” daughter. However, within her family and under the jurisdiction of her mother Effia is treated terribly, neglected, and abused by her mother––something that an individual outside of her family may not recognize. Effia’s family is like the forest: from the outside you can only see the whole, whereas from the inside you can see all of the nuances that sum up the parts of the whole.
Reading the epigraph reminded me of my large extended family: the various nuances that make up our family dynamics cannot be seen unless you are within the vast forest of our pedigree. You cannot see that my uncle is estranged from his five brothers and sister, that various beliefs, grudges, annoyances fractured the once-unbreakable “bond of the seven.” You cannot see that every mile of physical distance between one another and every additional day not spent together is another rifted, far-away relationship––one that never fully develops because of lacking visits, complicated relationships, or bruised egos.
From the outside of our forest, though, you see our closeness, our bounds, all that makes us into our own forest. You see our well over 50-person family gatherings once a month or so, you see our private “Dachis Family Facebook Group” because iMessage cannot house a group that size, you see how when everyone comes in town holidays aren’t just the day itself but the entire week of activities, outings, and gatherings. “The Dachis Queen,” our progenitor, “Big Baubie” ties us to one another and holds us accountable to maintain bonds with one another as a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and someday not so far off, a great-great-grandmother to us––the eldest tree which was the first of today’s living forest, bearing the seven seeds of the next generation.
“[My] family is like a forest:” we unconditionally support each other, we forever care for each other, and we eternally love each other. Even though each person may have their own “position” or nuances, we are together, we persevere, and we thrive; our support, our closeness, and our love embody the essence of the Akan proverb’s family forest.