Transcendent Kingdom

After a series of losses, the protagonist of Yaa Gyasi's new novel is determined to find a scientific basis for suffering. The Washington Post calls Transcendent Kingdom a work of “blazing brilliance.”

Transcendent Kingdom Book Cover

The oldest child of Ghanaian immigrants, Gifty is a sixth-year PhD candidate in neuroscience at Stanford studying reward-seeking behavior in mice. The ones who interest her most can’t stop pressing a level that delivers a sweet treat along with an electrical shock. Even as she turns to science for answers, Gifty can’t fully shake off the influence of the evangelical church in which she grew up.

Yaa Gyasi’s novel tells a profound story about race in America while also painting an intimate portrait of a young woman reckoning, spiritually and intellectually, with a legacy of unmanageable loss.

Gifty’s research questions spring from personal experience. Her mother suffers from severe depression, and her brother died of a heroin overdose. Yaa Gyasi’s second novel is a bravura take on big questions about faith v. science, addiction v. free will, the desire to love v. the fear of loss.

Color image of author Yaa Gyasi
(Photo by Michael Lionstar)

Yaa Gyasi is a Ghanaian-American novelist and author of the acclaimed debut novel Homegoing. She has appeared on the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35" list. Homegoing was selected for the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Award, the PEN/Hemingway award for best first book, and the American Book Award for contributions to diversity in American literature. Ms. Gyasi earned a BA from Stanford and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She lives in New York City.


Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.


Listen to Jennifer Brice, associate professor of English, in conversation with the author as well as one or more colleagues. 

Scott Kraly is the Dana Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Colgate University. His work in psychopharmacology includes two books (Norton) — The Unwell Brain, and Psychopharmacology Problem Solving — and a recent review “Evidence-Based Pharmacotherapy” in the APA Handbook of Psychopharmacology. Laboratory research on physiological controls of drinking and eating has appeared in American Journal of Physiology, Nature, Psychological Review, Physiology and Behavior, Appetite, Behavioral Neuroscience, Alcohol, and Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior

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Enrich Your Reading Experience

  • “A double helix of wisdom and rage twists through the quiet lines of this novel.” Ron Charles calls Transcendent Kingdom a “book of blazing brilliance” for his Washington Post review.
  • “A family in isolation is a kind of science experiment.” Nell Freudenberger explores familial connections, heartbreaks, and hope in this review of  Transcendent Kingdom for the New York Times.
  • In her review for Vox, Constance Grady writes about the creeping intensity of Transcendent Kingdom, and the ways in which the novel “[proceeds] through its ideas as carefully and deliberately as cautious Gifty proceeds when she makes her way through an experiment.”
  • Describing Transcendent Kingdom as wise, intimate, and humorous, Kirkus Reviews celebrates Yaa Gyasi’s second novel.
  • “Exquisitely written, emotionally searing, this is an exceptionally powerful follow-up to Gyasi's phenomenal debut,” writes Bookshop on Transcendent Kingdom
  • Yaa Gyasi discusses the importance of the redemptive qualities of caretaking to her new novel, Transcendent Kingdom, in this interview with the Atlantic.

‘What’s the point of all this?’ is a question that separates humans from other animals.

Yaa Gyasi
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Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. This event is co-sponsored by the Arnold A. Sio Chair in Diversity and Community.