WellRead’s October 2020 selection was Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. This is a story about love, loss and inheritance. It’s about the tension between science and faith, about surviving the hypervisibility of being Black in small-town America, about the intersection between race and poverty, and the ways we seek to rationalise emotionally incomprehensible things.
Use these discussion questions to engage with the book further, whether in a book club with friends, or just on your own as you digest the story.
Reading questions for Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi:
“I would always have something to prove. Nothing but blazing brilliance would be enough to prove it.” Why do you think Gifty feels this way?
The book asks whether faith and scientific rationalism can work together to answer transcendent questions. Do you think Gifty finds a way for them to coexist in her life?
There’s so much mediation on rebirth in this novel - from a religious and a personal perspective. How feasible is a fresh start? Can we package up our past? (Question from an interview with Gyasi and The Paris Review).
“All you have to do is watch a child ride her bike directly into a brick wall or jump from the tallest branch of a sycamore tree to know that we humans are reckless with our bodies, reckless with our lives, for no other reason that that we want to know what would happen, what it might feel like to brush up against death, to run right up to the edge of our lives, which is, in some ways, to live fully.” Such exquisite writing! Discuss this sentiment and whether or not you agree with it.
What did you make of the final chapter and did it influence how you felt about the book overall?
- So many questions, not enough space. Use these themes to spark conversation: addiction and mental health in the Black family; the opioid epidemic; the Chin Chin Man’s return to Ghana; second-generation immigrant experience; community and why Gifty struggled to find it; caretaking; Gifty’s relationship with Anne.
Please note, these questions were written and distributed in October, 2020.