Common Reading Initiative at Penn State Altoona for First-year Students
Sponsored by the Division of Arts and Humanities
Penn State Altoona’s Division of Arts and Humanities is pleased to announce that Yaa Gyasi’s novel Transcendent Kingdom will be the Common Read selection for the 2023–2024 academic year.
This “exquisitely written, emotionally searing” novel addresses depression, opioid addiction, racism, the intersections of science and religion, and more, all through the point of view of a graduate student in neurobiology. It has been described as “a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, love.” By addressing such contemporary themes, the Common Read committee feels sure that it will resonate with all in our campus community and inspire important discussions.
Watch for announcements in the coming months about the fall semester events that will bring the campus and Altoona community together to discuss the artistry of and the important issues raised by Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom.
About Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi has been described as “an important new literary voice” or, more powerfully, in the words of National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates "an inspiration" and "what happens when you pair a gifted literary mind to an epic task." In September 2016, she was chosen by Coates as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honorees.
Her debut novel Homegoing was one of the most celebrated debuts of 2016. The novel has been described as “a riveting, kaleidoscopic novel; Homegoing is a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America.”
Her stunning follow-up novel, Transcendent Kingdom, was an instant New York Times bestseller and has garnered reviews such as “A gorgeously woven narrative about a woman trying to survive the grief of a brother lost to addiction and a mother trapped in depression while pursuing her ambitions. Not a word or idea out of place.”
Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and lives in Berkeley, California. She is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize. Homegoing also was a winner at the 2017 Audie Awards.
Amazon description of Transcendent Kingdom
Gifty is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at the Stanford University School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after an ankle injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her. But even as she turns to the hard sciences to unlock the mystery of her family's loss, she finds herself hungering for her childhood faith and grappling with the evangelical church in which she was raised, whose promise of salvation remains as tantalizing as it is elusive.
Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression, addiction, and grief—a novel about faith, science, religion, and love. Exquisitely written, and emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut.