Bay Area Book Baes: Yaa Gyasi and Emma Cline

Bay Area Book Baes: Yaa Gyasi and Emma Cline

Portrait of Emma Cline, photo via Huffpost

Portrait of Emma Cline, photo via Huffpost

The Bay Area’s a bastion for creatives of all mediums. And a handful of those  pen-to-paper creatives had a stellar year in publishing, finding their books on Bestseller lists and on the shelves Barnes & Nobles nation-wide.

Despite the dumpster fire that was our political discourse, 2016 was a fantastic year for books. From novels written about teenage angst and an insatiable need for notoriety (Zadie Smith’s Swing Time) to the more gentile, let-me-not-hit-you-over-the-head-with-hollow-plot-every-page fictitious works (Ann Patchett's Common Wealth), women held the publishing world by the reigns—and didn’t let go. Like an bracket edited flashback to a 2011 Beyoncé anthem: “Who run [the literary] world? Girls.”

And of two of those written works were smithed by first-time authors that started right here in The Bay Area—Emma Cline’s The Girls and Yaa Gyasi Homegoing.

The cover of Emma Cline's, "The Girls."

The cover of Emma Cline's, "The Girls."

On Emma: For one, she’s adamant on not owning a smartphone. That’s right, millennial ilk, a 27-year-old walks among us without an Android or iOS powered device—by choice. Born in Sonoma County, Emma was surrounded by both folklore and fermented grapes all her life; her father is the wine-maker behind Cline Cellars, and the Charles Manson cult tellinger were a common topic discussed amongst the family.

And it was this steeping of cultish stories—along with her “interesting” platonic relationship with a man of fifty-three when she, herself, was only thirteen—that inspired Emma to pen The Girls: a novel told (and narrated) through the eyes of Evie Boyd, a troubled, relatable adolescent, going through the growing pains of maturation, tied by the shackles of Russell’s (the cult leader) psychedelic commune.

Yaa Gyasi's, "Homegoing".

Yaa Gyasi's, "Homegoing".

Yaa Gyasi, photo via NY Times

Yaa Gyasi, photo via NY Times

On Yaa: Born in Ghana, raised in Alabama, Ohio, and Tennessee, and holding both a BA in English Literature from Stanford and an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Program, Yaa Gyasi knows her way around an atlas. In fact, it was a byproduct of her globetrotting that birthed the idea for her debut novel, Homegoing.

Upon receiving a healthy, corpulent grant from Stanford to pursue a thesis on the post- and pre-colonial African slave trade, Yaa traveled to Ghana, her first time back since her birth. But, it was only when Yaa was given a guided tour of the Gold Coast castle—a space primarily used to temporarily house hundreds of forcefully collected men and women of African descent—that a idea for a novel began stirring in her mind. Then, walking through these corridors where men and women were once kept like factory farmed pigs, the muse began whispering: Yaa would later write a full-length novel spanning 300-years in time, beginning with the polar opposite lives of Effie's and Esi's  tracing both their descendents, chapter by chapter, right up until the present-day.


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