Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

Novel by Yaa Gyasi explores addiction, immigration and family ties

A portrait of a woman next to a book cover.
Author Yaa Gyasi discusses her new novel “Transcendent Kingdom” with MPR News host Kerri Miller.
Photo by Peter Hurley | Vilcek Foundation

Yaa Gyasi’s acclaimed debut, “Homegoing,” was a sweeping novel that explored the legacy of African, British and American slavery on a Ghanaian family over three centuries. Her second book, “Transcendent Kingdom,” is a more intimate exploration of family loss and love in one contemporary immigrant family. 

The main character is a Gifty, a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Stanford University, who is studying pleasure-seeking behavior in mice, even as she struggles to understand her brother’s death after a heroin overdose and her mother’s slide into depression. 

MPR News host Kerri Miller spoke with Gyasi about how themes of her new novel resonate with her own life. Like her protagonist, Gyasi is a Ghanaian immigrant who grew up in Huntsville, Ala. She discusses how moving frequently around as a child forged close relationships with her own brothers, about her experience of racism in the Pentecostal church and how she is surviving the coronavirus era by reading obsessively in her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment.  


  • Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian American novelist, author of “Homecoming” and “Transcendent Kingdom,” and recipient of the National Book Foundation's 2016 "5 Under 35" Award. 

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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