The University of Wisconsin announced Yaa Gyasi’s “Transcendent Kingdom” as the 2021-22 Go Big Read novel last week.
Chancellor Rebecca Blank selected the novel as part of UW’s annual common reading program. The program aims to engage members of the community in a shared, academically focused experience with literature, according to the program’s website.
“Transcendent Kingdom” is Gyasi’s second novel, published in Sept. 2020. The novel explores the issues of race, immigration, science, faith and family. The novel was also longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
In a UW news release, Blank said the novel differs from other Go Big Read selections in recent years, as it uses a fictional story to deliver its message about the main character, Gifty, and her family.
“Fiction has a unique ability to connect with us in a very personal way,” Blank said in the news release. “Gifty’s story is all about her struggle to establish her own identity. In this particular story, we can all identify with how we work to integrate our past experiences, family history and future dreams into a coherent sense of who we are.”
The novel takes the reader on a journey with Gifty — a neuroscience graduate student and the only member of her Ghanaian family born in the U.S.
Gyasi, who was born in Ghana and moved around the U.S. in her youth, obtained a B.A. in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, according to the news release.
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As part of the Go Big Read events, Gyasi will hold a keynote event Nov. 3, 2021 at the Memorial Union Theater.
“This past year has shown us all the importance of listening to people’s stories and finding ways to reach out to them,” Blank said.