Multigenerational family sagas have the power to bring several narratives and perspectives into one novel, giving readers a vast and enriching story. By understanding that each person is a culmination of the choices and experiences of those who came before them, it brings to light the ways in which we are all connected. From conflict in immigrant homes to the damage of the AIDS crisis, and the aftermath of a teen pregnancy, these 10 novels are layered with the wisdom of older generations, the fresh perspective of new generations, and the pain, hope, and love that’s shared by both.
In 18th century Ghana, two half-sisters, Esi and Effia, lived in neighboring villages — each one unaware of the other’s existence. The distance between these women grows even more stark when Effia moves into Cape Coast Castle after marrying her slave-owning husband, and Esi becomes a prisoner who is then sold into slavery in the United States. Told through the perspectives of their descendants, Homegoing examines the ways in which the consequences of slavery and the Black diaspora have continued to seep into every subsequent generation.
From World War II to 2000, White Teeth follows friends Archie Jones and Samad Miah as they navigate life and trauma as veterans of the British Army. In their 40s and dealing with their own troubles, Archie and Samad are reinvigorated when they both marry much younger women and have children. But as Samad’s twin sons and Archie’s daughter grow up, they discover the shocking results of the way they raise their children and the destruction caused by racism, privilege, and the patriarchy. Will the decisions Archie chooses to make, and the ones Samad is forced to make, end in tragedy? Or can their children make it out by the skin of their teeth?
As a family gathers for an Indian wedding, parents Rafiq and Layla must grapple with how their choices have impacted their children. Hadia is about to marry for love, not tradition. Huda vows to follow in her sister’s footsteps, and Amar has been estranged for over three years. Divided into four parts, the novel goes between the perspectives of different family members at different points in time but always returns to the present moment — Hadia’s wedding weekend. Uncover the secrets and moments that tore them all apart, and see if this wedding has the power to pull them back together again.
In a novel spanning from 1985 to 2015, readers follow the lasting devastation of the AIDS epidemic, not only to those diagnosed but also to those left behind. Beginning in the 80s, Yale Tishman is a development director for a Chicago art gallery, but as his friends slowly pass away from AIDS — something he believes will kill him one day — his increasing success feels moot. Shortly after his friend Nico’s death, the only family Yale has left is Nico’s sister, Fiona. Thirty years later, Fiona is the one who’s hanging onto family by a thread as she searches for her estranged daughter, Claire — the victim of a cult. While looking for Claire, Fiona is confronted with the circumstances which led to Nico’s death, re-examining the ways in which AIDS not only took her brother’s life but hers as well.
Spanning three generations and perspectives, a daughter, her mother, and her grandmother all believe they’re misunderstood by each other. But as we connect with each character, we find that they have much more in common than they realize — despite the years between them. Simran feels as though she can never live up to her mother Nandini’s expectations, while Nandini believes she’s failing as a mother. Watching their conflict unfold and worsen over the years is Nandini’s mother, Mimi. Mimi also feels she’s failed her daughter but sees the conflict between Simran and Nandini as an opportunity to redeem herself by mending their relationship and revealing the ways they’ve misjudged not only each other but themselves.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
A fictional African village known as Kosawa is under extreme environmental degradation at the hands of an American oil company called Pexton. As they face the deterioration of their quality of life, land, and community, several generations of villagers retaliate against the pipelines that ruin their farmland, the deadly water pollution, and the broken promises made time and time again by Pexton. This journey is told from the perspective of various children, and particularly follows Thula, a young girl who grows up to revolt against the oil company, risking everything to get reparations, justice, and the land back to her community.
This novel follows four Chinese women who all recently immigrated from China to San Francisco. After experiencing so much loss and devastation, their only place of solace and companionship is during their regular mahjong games — their Joy Luck Club — where the women can play, eat, and talk together. As their American-born daughters grow up, each woman experiences a cultural disconnect with the new generation. But no matter how painful their relationships become, there remains a deep connection between these women and their daughters.
In a story of a mother, a daughter, and a dress, sixteen-year-old Melody prepares for her coming-of-age party — wearing a dress her mother Iris wore sixteen years earlier. Iris was measured for this dress to wear at her own ceremony, but after she became pregnant, her coming out turned into hiding out. Between the perspectives of Melody, her parents, and her grandparents, we’re taken on a journey that moves backward from Iris’s decision to leave Melody with her father, all the way back to the Tulsa massacre of 1921. Every decision made by this family has led Melody to his moment — and her party’s just about to start.
For Marilyn and James Lee, their eldest daughter Lydia was the shining hope, a way to fulfill the dreams they were never able to pursue. But when her body is discovered in the local lake, the delicate balance they had been keeping is destroyed, throwing the entire family into chaos. This is a story of family, secrets, and longing. It is an intimate look at the pressures mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives place on each other in an attempt to understand one another.