Introducing The 2022 Deep Read: Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom

The Deep Read

The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz is excited to announce the return of The Deep Read, the annual program that invites students, faculty, and other curious minds throughout the world to join in a lively discussion about a recent book. 

For 2022, we’ll read Transcendent Kingdom, the acclaimed novel from Brooklyn-based author Yaa Gyasi. The book follows Gifty, a daughter of Ghanaian immigrants and a Neuroscience PhD student at Stanford, as she navigates the complexities of being a first-generation scientist of color. Using the methodology of a scientist, Gifty seeks to understand the roots of the drug addiction that killed her brother and her mother’s depression even as she wrestles with how her religious upbringing can coexist with her secular scientific training. 

As with Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing, the book reaches beyond the world of these characters to touch on larger issues like the often difficult assimilation of immigrants into American life, the expectations placed on first-generation students as they enter higher education, opioid addiction, and mental health. 

The 2022 Deep Read series officially gets underway in mid-April, with a host of online and in-person discussions of Transcendent Kingdom. That will include regular weekly emails that will unpack different aspects of the book with the guidance of UC Santa Cruz professors, online forums to ask questions and connect with fellow Deep Readers, and a salon where participating professors will lead a discussion with UCSC students and other members of the Deep Read community joining either virtually or in person. 

All of this culminates in an event on May 15, 2022 at the Quarry Amphitheater at UC Santa Cruz where Deep Readers will be able to experience a live discussion on Transcendent Kingdom with the book’s author Yaa Gyasi. 

“Now in its third year, The Deep Read continues to grow in enthusiasm and participation among the UC Santa Cruz community and beyond,” said Irena Polić, the managing director of The Humanities Institute who co-founded The Deep Read with professor of literature Sean Keilen. “We are especially excited to finally meet many of our Deep Readers in person.” 

In addition, a special event is planned for Alumni Week on April 20, which includes a discussion with the Deep Read team about the practice of reading deeply and the themes of Gyasi’s book, as well as in-person and virtual conversations with fellow alumni, Provosts, and current students. 

“There’s a real desire for access to and engagement with the kind of deep thinking and analysis that our scholars in Humanities and across campus provide—and what makes the Deep Read so special is that it builds community inclusively by opening up this experience to a broad public and by centering issues that are important to all of us,” said Jasmine Alinder, UCSC’s Dean of Humanities. 

For UC Santa Cruz students, the conversation doesn’t end there. In Spring Quarter 2022, Porter College will be hosting a class titled Yaa Gyasi and Contemporary African Diasporic Literature. Led by lecturer Laura Martin, students will use Gyasi’s books as a springboard into broader discussions surrounding the recent outpouring of important work being done by writers with roots in Africa. 

“The Deep Read Class has been an inspiring way to connect undergraduate students with the broader community at UCSC and beyond,” Martin said. “This year, students will study Gyasi as a Ghanaian American writer whose work is at the intersection of African American and African Diasporic literary traditions and engages with important and vital themes, such as trauma, the historical legacies of Atlantic slavery, urban mobility, and the difficulty African immigrants face navigating middle-class aspirations.”

To help get Deep Readers started, The Humanities Institute will have 1,200 free copies of Transcendent Kingdom available — 1,000 for UCSC students and 200 for other community members. Click here to sign up for updates about the 2022 Deep Read program and to receive information on how you can reserve your free book.

The 2022 Deep Read Program is made possible through the generous support of the Helen and Will Webster Foundation, and is a product of a close collaboration among a growing group of campus and community partners. For the full list, visit the Deep Read page.