Roots: The Saga of an American Family Info

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It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750 and ends
two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an
unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of
them based on the people from Alex Haley s own family tree.

When Alex
was a boy growing up in Tennessee, his grandmother used to tell him
stories about their family, stories that went way back to a man she
called the African who was taken aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial
America. As an adult, Alex spent twelve years searching for
documentation that might authenticate what his grandmother had told him.
In an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered
the name of the African Kunta Kinte as well as the exact location of the
village in West Africa from where he was abducted in 1767. "Roots "is
based on the facts of his ancestry and the six generations of people
slaves and freemen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, a teacher, and
one acclaimed author who descended from Kunta Kinte."


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Ratings and Reviews From Market


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Reviews for Roots: The Saga of an American Family:

5

Sep 29, 2011

I read this book long, long ago: came across it while going through a book list here on Goodreads, and suddenly felt the urge to post a review.

Dear Kunta Kinte,

We are separated by time, space and culture. Throughout your largely tragic life, you would never have imagined that your story would ever be written, let alone read by a bookish teenager in far-away India, for whom slavery till that day was only a fact learned from school textbooks, mucked up to pass hated history exams. However, Mr. I read this book long, long ago: came across it while going through a book list here on Goodreads, and suddenly felt the urge to post a review.

Dear Kunta Kinte,

We are separated by time, space and culture. Throughout your largely tragic life, you would never have imagined that your story would ever be written, let alone read by a bookish teenager in far-away India, for whom slavery till that day was only a fact learned from school textbooks, mucked up to pass hated history exams. However, Mr. Kinte, you would be pleased to know that reading your story, penned by your descendant Mr. Alex Haley, changed his whole outlook. He suffered with you, Mr.Kinte, as you lay chained up in the dark and dank hold of the slaving vessel: he felt the searing pain as your foot was cut off as punishment for trying to run away: he choked back the bitter disappointment, along with you, when your master told you that the money you had saved up was not enough to buy you freedom (namely, that you were too poor to pay for what you were worth!)and he suffered the agony of separation with you as your daughter was sold off. And that teenager hung his head in shame as he thought of similar atrocities perperated by his forefathers in the name of caste.

Mr.Kinte, that day the boy took a vow never ever to insult the dignity of another human being; also not forget these crimes against humanity, lest they be repeated.

Mr.Kinte, I am that boy. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the lessons your story taught me.

Yours sincerely,
Nandakishore Varma. ...more
4

Feb 18, 2017

Roots: The Saga of an American Family = Roots, Alex Haley
Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and first published in 1976. Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte—a young man taken from the Gambia when he was seventeen and sold as a slave—and seven generations of his descendants in the United States. Kunta, a Mandinka living by the River Gambia, has a difficult but free childhood in his village, Juffure. His village subsists on farming, and sometimes they lack Roots: The Saga of an American Family = Roots, Alex Haley
Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and first published in 1976. Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte—a young man taken from the Gambia when he was seventeen and sold as a slave—and seven generations of his descendants in the United States. Kunta, a Mandinka living by the River Gambia, has a difficult but free childhood in his village, Juffure. His village subsists on farming, and sometimes they lack enough food, as the climate is harsh. Kunta is surrounded by love and traditions. Ominously, the village had heard of the recent arrival of toubob, men with white skins who smell like wet chickens. Kunta is excited to see the world. At one point, Kunta sees men in hoods taking away some of the children. This confuses Kunta, but is eager to learn his father, Omoro, will take him outside Juffure. Omoro and Kunta set off, learning much more about their surroundings. When they return, Kunta brags to all his friends about the journey, but does not pay attention to his family's goats, which fall prey to a panther.
Later on, Kunta is taken off from manhood training, with other children of his kafo (division or grade). Kunta learns even more about the Gambia, but fears the slave trade, which he learns is closer to home than he thinks. Kunta passes his training, and learns more about Juffure's court system. One day, he witnesses the case of a young girl, who was kidnapped by the toubob, and came back pregnant. She gives birth to a mixed-raced child, and the case is unresolved. One morning when Kunta is cutting wood to make a drum, he is ambushed by slatees, black slave traders, and is knocked unconscious. He awakens in the brig of a ship, naked and chained. After a nightmarish journey across the Atlantic on board the British slave ship Lord Ligonier, he is landed in Annapolis in the British colony of Maryland. John Waller of Spotsylvania County, Virginia purchases Kunta at an auction and gives him the name Toby. However, Kunta is headstrong and tries to run away four times. When he is captured for the last time, slave hunters cut off part of his right foot to cripple him. Kunta is then bought by his master's brother, Dr. William Waller. He becomes a gardener and eventually his master's buggy driver. Kunta also befriends a musician slave named Fiddler. In the aftermath of the American Revolutionary War, Kunta marries Bell, Waller's cook, and together they have a daughter, Kizzy. Kizzy's childhood as a slave is as happy as her parents can make it. She is close friends with John Waller's daughter "Missy" Anne, and she rarely experiences cruelty. Her life changes when she forges a traveling pass for her beau Noah, a field hand. When he is caught and confesses, she is sold away from her family at the age of sixteen. Kizzy is bought by Tom Lea, a farmer and chicken fighter who rose from poor beginnings. He rapes and impregnates her, and she gives birth to George, who later becomes known as "Chicken George" when he becomes his father's cockfighting trainer. Chicken George is a philanderer known for expensive taste and alcohol, as much as for his iconic bowler hat and green scarf. He marries Matilda and they have six sons and two daughters, including Tom, who becomes a very good blacksmith. Tom marries Irene, a woman originally owned by the Holt family. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز نوزدهم ماه فوریه سال 1979 میلادی
عنوان: ریشه ها؛ نویسنده: الکس هیلی؛ مترجم: علیرضا فرهمند؛ تهران، خوارزمی، 1357؛ در 695 ص؛ چاپ دوم: تهران، امیرکبیر، 1361؛ چاپ سوم 1363؛ چهارم 1367؛ پنجم 1369؛ ششم 1382؛ هفتم 1387؛ هشتم 1388؛ نهم و دهم 1392؛ یازدهم 1393؛ شابک: 9789643030506؛ چاپ دوازدهم 1394؛ در 775 ص؛ شابک: 9789640018224؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی سده 20 م
عنوان: ریشه ها؛ نویسنده: الکس هیلی؛ مترجم: محمدتقی کرباسی؛ حسن مروی؛ تهران، جاویدان، 1366؛ در 416 ص؛ چاپ ششم 1387؛ شابک: 9786005381061؛

داستان، وضعیت نابسامان آمریکاییان آفریقایی‌ تبار، و بیان رنج‌ها و کاستی‌های زندگی ایشان در دوران برده‌ داری و پس از آن است. در نگاهی ژرفتر، نویسنده به شناساندن مفاهیم تبعیض نژادی، بردگی، بیگاری و زیر تملک دیگران بودن، می‌پردازد، و آن را محکوم می‌کند. کتاب نیمه مستندی ست که به شکل رمان نوشته شده، و بیانی واقع‌گرایانه دارد، داستان با زایش قهرمان اصلی: «کونتا کینته» در دهکده‌ ای مسلمان، و در باختر قاره ی آفریقا آغاز می‌شود. او با فرهنگ سنتی رشد می‌کند، و زندگی آرام و بی‌ دغدغه‌ ای را به همراه خانواده، و قبیله‌ خویش می‌گذراند. اما تراژدی از جایی آغاز می‌شود که بازرگانان برده، او را غافلگیر کرده و می‌ربایند. او به همراه عده‌ ای دیگر در بدترین وضع، با کشتی‌های تجارت برده، به آمریکا برده می‌شود، و به فروش می‌رسد. «کونتا کینته» در آمریکا متحمل رنج‌های بسیاری می‌شود. او که پیشتر آزاد و شرافتمندانه زندگی کرده، باید صبح تا شام عرق بریزد، و کار کند و ناظر تصاحب دسترنجش به دست دیگران باشد. در آغاز زبان انگلیسی را نمی‌داند، و به سایر بردگان سیاه، با نظر تحقیر می‌نگرد، و از اینروی همه از او کناره می‌گیرند. او که مسلمانی باورمند است، باور دارد که بردگان از اصل و ریشه ی خویش فاصله گرفته، و سرسپرده ی سفیدپوستان شده‌ اند، اما به تدریج زبان انگلیسی را می‌آموزد، و درمی‌یابد که اینان هرگز در آفریقا نبوده‌ اند، و برده، زاده شده‌ اند. هم‌چنین می‌فهمد که این بردگان هرگزی از وضع خود راضی نیستند، و گاه‌ به فرار، یا حتی به شورش می‌اندیشند، بدین ترتیب با آنان احساس همدردی می‌کند. اما هرگزی از باورهای خود برنمی‌گردد، و پیوسته تلاش می‌کند آفریقایی‌ تباران را، با میراث خویش آشنا سازد. او سرانجام ازدواج می‌کند، صاحب فرزندی می‌شود، و داستان همین‌گونه ادامه می‌یابد، تا به خود نویسنده می‌رسد. این داستان از دیدگاه تاریخی نیز، بیانگر رویدادهای: جنگ‌های استقلال، و تأسیس ایالات متحده آمریکا، شورش‌های بردگان، جنگ داخلی، و لغو برده‌ داری نیز هست. «آلکس هیلی» در بخش‌های پایانی کتاب، به شرح حال کوتاهی از خویشتن می‌پردازد، از چگونگی دستیابی‌ اش به شرح حال قهرمانان داستان سخن می‌گوید، و از انگیزه‌ هایش برای نوشتن زندگی‌نامه ی خانواده و نیاکانش پرده برمی‌دارد. ا. شربیانی ...more
2

Mar 20, 2008

This book was astonishing to me - particularly the narrative of Kunta Kinte's life. This is why I read! What an amazing description of African culture and the rights of manhood. Then, the horrible violation of slavery and the cross-cultural experience of an African joining slaves who were predominately born in the United States. Sounds silly, but though I've read many books on slavery, none have dealt with the differences among slaves themselves and how growing up as a slave shaped how African This book was astonishing to me - particularly the narrative of Kunta Kinte's life. This is why I read! What an amazing description of African culture and the rights of manhood. Then, the horrible violation of slavery and the cross-cultural experience of an African joining slaves who were predominately born in the United States. Sounds silly, but though I've read many books on slavery, none have dealt with the differences among slaves themselves and how growing up as a slave shaped how African Americans thought and interacted both with whites and with newly arrived Africans. I could understand why Alex Haley is the best-selling African-American author to date.

I wanted to give this book a 5. But, two things prevented me from giving it the highest rating.

First, when the book moves away from Kunte Kinte into successive generations, while it has engaging moments, something of the brilliance was lost. This was strange to me. After reading the book, I did some research on Alex Haley and Roots, and discovered that there were allegations that Haley plagiarized from Harold Courlander's "The African", published nine years before Roots (It seems the passages in question were concentrated in the life of Kunta Kinte); after Courlander sued Haley an out of court monetary settlement from Haley to Courlander was made, though Haley seems to have maintained innocence in the matter. Could it be that the brilliance of the book came from Courlander's work? I don't know and have requested "The African" from inter-library loan in order to investigate further. Margaret Walker Alexander filed a similar suit, but hers was dismissed. The legal actions of both Courlander and Walker were resolved in 1978. This was two years after the publication of Roots in 1976, and one year after a national television miniseries boosted sales and interest in 1977. I will also hunt down Walker's book.

Secondly, the genealogical work behind the book has come into question. This wouldn't be a problem, except that the final chapters present the genealogy as factually verified by the author in an attempt to place the work firmly in the historical fiction genre. In addition, these final chapters uphold Haley's lineage as a kind of beacon for all of African descent who "don't know who they are." This could have been done in the realm of fiction, without the assertion of fact, but it wasn't.

I was very disappointed by these revelations. I felt mislead, even betrayed, by Alex Haley. However, I must concede that even with these faults, the book is a wonderful read that opened up new doors of thought to me and shaped my thinking in new ways. For that, I am grateful.

--

As a follow up, I have also confirmed that Haley plagiarized from Margaret Walker's book, Jubilee, an absolutely fabulous book written by the first African American woman to earn a PhD. I would highly recommend this book. In addition, reading both "The African" and "Jubilee" helped me to see a little more of what Haley was getting at with writing Roots.

Now that I understand his perspective better, I can see that Roots definitely had an agenda. Black Power connected with "Africanism" and Islam, which is probably also represented in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X". Note the following when you read it:

1) The extremely compelling portions on Africa have been criticized as current social anthropology as opposed to history.

2) There is an emphasis (lacking in Courlander's "The African") on Islamic belief, as opposed to voodoo being the religious and cultural grounding of the African community.

3) Christianity is covertly proclaimed as the "white man religion", used by slave traders to stomp out cultural identity and practices that might lead blacks to gather up enough confidence to start a successful rebellion.

4) Apparently, the book kicked off a ton of travel to Africa, during which African Americans found they were not embraced as Haley alludes they would be. Also, many believe Haley's documentation of his trip to Africa is entirely false and that the groit he met and all the officials involved were coached and eager to see Haley be successful in generating interest in their country.

5) All of these things would be forgivable IF Haley had merely written a work of fiction. We would suspect authors had their own ideas, agendas and perspectives. But, the intro and those last chapters are horrifically misleading. It's almost like he believed his own press! And the IDEA that he was going for is powerful, that Africans were stripped of their roots by the slave industry and that this has been harmful to them. But this reality only serves to underline the strong motive he had for promoting this perspective (and African Islam/ Black Power as the logical fulfillment/ salvation to such a paradigm).

6) Some of the quotes, references to Haley lead me to believe he wasn't a very nice person... not that anyone wants to say that outright, but it's there. It certainly appears he was looking to a black Muslim identity for wholeness, salvation, and power. Hopefully, he found peace with God and others before he died.

Also, regarding Jubilee specifically, I recognized one paragraph in the first chapter that I'm pretty sure was copied verbatim. The main character, Vyry (and her mother, Sis Hetta whose death opens the book) seem to have 'inspired' Haley's character Kizzy. But, as obvious as that was, perhaps the biggest thing Haley lifted from Jubilee was the idea to write about one's descendants and that such knowledge was important for the coming generations. Walker's dedication communicates this intention with less dramatic flair than Haley's claims about flying the globe, roaming through records, and finding groits who harbor verbal testimony of his ancestors, all while the oldest and last of his relatives is dying.

I would still recommend Roots, but I thought these observations might be helpful in positioning the work within its proper historical context. For more information on my investigations pertaining to Roots, please see the conversation in comments on this review. Although many of those that originally discussed the book with me are no longer on Goodreads, I think you can follow the discussion and track my primary sources if you would like to know more. Enjoy!

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley, 1965

Jubilee, Margaret Walker, 1966
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

The African, Harold Courlander, 1967
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

Also from Goodreads discussion below this review:
Roots: Philip Nobile “The Village Voice” February 23, 1993
After Haley’s death, his private papers were released and reviewed by Philip Nobile, who published a definitive article in 1993. Nobile’s article details specific problems with Haley’s account and includes numerous primary sources. I was able to order this article via the periodicals department at my library. It was photocopied by a library that owned the magazine copy and sent to my library. It cost me $1.

Also from Goodreads discussion below this review:
10 Big Lies about America, Medved, 2008
Big Lie #2: The United States is Uniquely Guilty for the Crime of Slavery, and Based Its Wealth on Stolen African Labor
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

A new book has been written that I prefer to Roots. A generational narrative that spans from Africa to America and back, see
Homegoing, Gyasi, 2016
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... ...more
5

Feb 03, 2017

I remember watching the mini series of this book on TV around the same time we were studying about early American history in school. I finally got my hands on this book a few years back when a friend lent it to me and since she was clearing her bookshelf I was more than happy to keep the copy...I still have it! A gripping and gritting portrayal of the story of a tribal prince, Kunta Kinte, who is snatched from his homeland of Africa and thrown into a nightmare of slavery in America and how not I remember watching the mini series of this book on TV around the same time we were studying about early American history in school. I finally got my hands on this book a few years back when a friend lent it to me and since she was clearing her bookshelf I was more than happy to keep the copy...I still have it! A gripping and gritting portrayal of the story of a tribal prince, Kunta Kinte, who is snatched from his homeland of Africa and thrown into a nightmare of slavery in America and how not only he, but his subsequent generation of descendants fight against odds to keep their identity as well as the story of Kunta Kinte alive. A must read!!! ...more
2

August 23, 2003

Inexusable --- fiction posing as genealogy
Don't get me wrong --- I thought the story contained within "Roots" was gripping, and it was well written. Also, it is obvious that the underlying truths of slavery in America are echoed within the story of "Roots." If Haley had written and marketed this as a novel, based loosely on some of his family stories, I would be giving this 4 or 5 stars.
Unfortunately, his purported family history simply isn't true, and not only is it not true, but it has been deliberately distorted by Haley so that his story would have more punch to it. Haley has long since lost credibility within both the fields of black history and genealogy, and even Haley (after receiving much criticism) conceded that he had taken "artistic license" with some details, although he never acknowledged the true breadth of his distortions.
If you want to see how inaccurate "Roots" is, check out an article written by Elizabeth Shown Mills & Gary B. Mills in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (Volume 72 #1 pp 35-49), which absolutely shreads both the American & African aspects of Haley's alleged family history. It will make it difficult to read this book with much enthusiasm.
It is hard to have much respect for Haley; he deliberately distorted his family's story, never fully owned up to that fact, and then basically rode the gravy train that was "Roots" for the rest of his life. To me, that is beneath contempt. Read the book if you must, but understand that it is almost pure fiction.
4

Feb 01, 2014

Magnificent. The epic chronicle of a family through many generations of cruelty, hardship and suffering. But it's much more than that really; it's the history of slavery in America. What happened to the characters in this book happened to millions of others and it's a story that needed to be told and Alex Haley did a masterful job of telling it. Roots should be required reading in high schools because all of us, regardless of age, race, or gender should understand this history. You can't tell Magnificent. The epic chronicle of a family through many generations of cruelty, hardship and suffering. But it's much more than that really; it's the history of slavery in America. What happened to the characters in this book happened to millions of others and it's a story that needed to be told and Alex Haley did a masterful job of telling it. Roots should be required reading in high schools because all of us, regardless of age, race, or gender should understand this history. You can't tell the history of America without telling the history of slavery. We can still feel it's impact on our society still today.
4.5 stars ...more
5

February 26, 2014

Not What I Imagined
I started this book with a preconceived idea of what it was going to be. I had never seen the movie in its hundreds of runs on TV, I didn't know anyone that had ever read the entire story, and it had never been assigned reading in any of my many literature classes. I honestly felt like it was going to be a one sided version of events from an angry perspective.

It was anything but! I was moved by the lush descriptions of places and events. I loved the fullness in the characters. And when I rounded the corner into the end of the book I was truly surprised at the story's true nature.

I spent the first couple of nights critical of the storytelling and how the story's timeline was anchored to political or social events. Once again all the pieces fell into place as the tradition of African oral history was explained and honored in the telling of the story.

I may be a total book nerd, but I Iove a good story that makes me think and challenges my work view.
5

Jul 03, 2007

I honestly can't believe how much I enjoyed this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for about half a year now and I've been wanting to read it as soon as I got it. I always just started another book though and always said "next time."

I finally picked it up 6 days ago and finished it about 10 minutes ago.

The beginning was wonderful. I was so enthralled with Africa and Kunta Kinte and his family and the whole works. The way they lived, the culture, the traditions, it was like reading of another I honestly can't believe how much I enjoyed this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for about half a year now and I've been wanting to read it as soon as I got it. I always just started another book though and always said "next time."

I finally picked it up 6 days ago and finished it about 10 minutes ago.

The beginning was wonderful. I was so enthralled with Africa and Kunta Kinte and his family and the whole works. The way they lived, the culture, the traditions, it was like reading of another world (almost literally). How close of a family they were and the way they were raised is so far-fetched of what it's like today. These people were all about respect and their tight clans and villages. They loved all of each other and they worked hard for what they had even if it was hardly anything. They lived without most of the things we feel we NEED today. It honestly didn't seem that bad of a lifestyle.

To be ripped apart from that after barely just being able to 'live' as they call it was heart-breaking. Just to be Kunta with his aspirations and dreams and then to be ripped from it just in a split second by someone with their own ideas and taken away from the only thing he knows. I can't imagine just being taken away from my famly and my COUNTRY to some strange place where they don't even speak a language I know. The story-telling was so descriptive, I cried, cringed and just felt a weight on my heart.

Following Kinte and seeing how brave he was and how determined he was to find a way back home showed how proud he was and how he really thought if he tried he could make it back. I thought he might have tried a bit too much but I think he would've kept going if they hadn't of done what they did. As the years go on he builds a whole new life. Learns a new language, builds a new home and family and basically start over as a whole nother person. Nothing could've been harder. He never let where he came from die though. He made sure his children knew where he came from and so on.

The only thing I wasn't really too happy about was when the story just all of a sudden went to Kizzy. I mean we never heard about Kunta and Bell again. Half the book was about Kunta and then the next chapter that's it. I didn't really like that.

All in all, I loved how the family kept its tradition and promise to make sure they knew about Kunta and where he came from. It was amazing.

I find it odd too because 3 last names in that book are of my ancestral background. Johnson, being my maiden name. Henning being my grandmother's maiden name and Haley being my great-grandmother's maiden name before becoming a Henning. This is all on my father's side, too. I think that's really amazing. I wonder if those in the book were my ancestors. Hmm. Something to look up.

To know a bit of where you come from and who your ancestors are I think is a wonderful thing to know. For Alex Haley to have been able to actually travel to the place where his great-great-great-great-grandfather came from. That's just amazing. Not many ppl can say that and I'm sure it would give you a sense of PRIDE to be able to say "yes, my so and so was this person or that person."

WONDERFUL BOOK!! ...more
5

Dec 08, 2018

I don't know why I've never read this book before now. It's excellent. Yes, as a Midwestern, middle-aged white person, the repeated use of the N-word was jarring, but definitely necessary to the story. It got a point across that I don't think would have been properly conveyed any other way. I'm going to re-watch the miniseries soon. It came out when I was in grade school, so I don't remember it well. But I highly recommend the book.
5

Sep 29, 2019

I loved both the book and movie versions of this powerful, historical saga: I will never forget the indomitable Kunta Kinte. This book changed my very sheltered teenage world view. Decades later, I am now reading Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, and once again I am brought face to face with humanity's truly awful dark side. I have to read these gut-wrenching novels in bits and pieces, because my poor aging heart can no longer take so much horror in one long sitting.
With the perspective of time I loved both the book and movie versions of this powerful, historical saga: I will never forget the indomitable Kunta Kinte. This book changed my very sheltered teenage world view. Decades later, I am now reading Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, and once again I am brought face to face with humanity's truly awful dark side. I have to read these gut-wrenching novels in bits and pieces, because my poor aging heart can no longer take so much horror in one long sitting.
With the perspective of time and and my own life experience, and after reading Roots and many other historical novels, I've come to realize this: We humans constantly abuse POWER, whether it comes in the form of money, position or some other sort of bestowed privilege. There have been rebellions throughout history, attempting to redress the imbalance caused by all the abuses of power in this world. I used to read historical novels almost exclusively during my teens and twenties, but as I entered my thirties and forties, I became jaded, and I turned to historical novels less and less. We don't ever seem to learn our lessons, do we? History just keeps repeating itself in a timeless loop: only the costumes, players and settings seem to change.
Lately, I've been listening to Simon and Garfunkel's The Sound of Silence, as performed by the group Disturbed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9Dg-...
"Silence like a cancer grows" - so very true! Our silence - our complacency - allows people like Trump to become our "Neon Gods". Because so many of us are afraid to think for ourselves, we surrender to what is fed to us by the media and other prevailing dogma. We have to examine all the crutches that so many of us need in this life: a religion or philosophy to believe in and blindly follow, stockpiles of money so we can build a false sense of security or create temporary happiness by indulging in luxurious status symbols (phones, cars, "mc-mansions," brand name clothes), and our consumption of food, alcohol and drugs - often to excess. I am just as guilty of all of this.
Those of us who love to retreat into the world of books need to support authors like Esi Edugyan, Alex Hailey and countless others who shine the stark light of truth on man's (historical and ongoing) inhumanity to man. Reading helps us to examine diverse thoughts and viewpoints. Hopefully, we can evolve our own notions of what we need to do to co-exist with tolerance and forgiveness. Keep reading... lest we forget! ...more
5

April 9, 2018

Staggering revelations
The title of this book says “The Saga of an AMERICAN family.” Every single American, unless Native American, has roots from somewhere else.
As we have learned in these pages, the roots of the Kinte family are African. I am also from an American family - with German roots. My husband is from an American family - with African roots.

I am not directly or personally responsible for any atrocities related to slavery, nor do I personally know anyone who has been the victim of slavery directly. Maybe because of that, I have had an impersonal attitude toward slavery and if I am being honest, I think I resented being lumped together with those of my race that were responsible for it.

I will confess that, although I had heard of Roots and had been aware of slavery’s impact on America, I had not given either the respect they are due until I married my African-American husband. In an effort to understand his heritage, I chose to read this haunting narrative and it will surely haunt me for the rest of my life! The images and emotions portrayed in these pages have changed me.

Having read Roots, I now have a deep conviction of the wrongs that have been committed. It is my prayer that I and those I have influence over will make every effort to do better for all generations to follow. May that be my legacy to my children and grandchildren and beyond, to in some small way, right a wrong and teach a better way.

Every American, regardless of their race, has roots from somewhere else. Every American, regardless of their roots, has a heart, a soul, a dream, a need. Every American loves, hopes, laughs, cries, hurts and suffers in their own way. May God help us all to see the things we have in common and use those things to unite us and build a future where cruelty no longer exists. Yes, that would be a legacy worth leaving!

—— Peggy Lee, Houston, TX
5

Nov 06, 2017

I am at least a fifth generation genealogist. I was ten when this book was first published and made into a miniseries. But, I was allowed to stay up that entire week of January 23 – January 30, 1977 to watch it in its entirety. I thought the cast did an excellent job. To this day, I still believe that the book was much better than the movie. But, as Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. once pointed out, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. I am at least a fifth generation genealogist. I was ten when this book was first published and made into a miniseries. But, I was allowed to stay up that entire week of January 23 – January 30, 1977 to watch it in its entirety. I thought the cast did an excellent job. To this day, I still believe that the book was much better than the movie. But, as Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. once pointed out, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. Roots is a work of the imagination rather than strict historical scholarship." ...more
3

Jan 18, 2013

I opened the cover of this book with eagerness and excitement. In fact, I informed my family I was finally reading Roots and I would be out of commission for the week!

I was then greeted by 192 pages of some of the dullest prose I have ever encountered.

Dull and monotonous writing. Zero character development. The exotic locale of Africa reduced to sand and thorns, with a few cardboard cut-outs of Africans standing around.

Then, on page 192 (out of 900), conflict finally creates the true I opened the cover of this book with eagerness and excitement. In fact, I informed my family I was finally reading Roots and I would be out of commission for the week!

I was then greeted by 192 pages of some of the dullest prose I have ever encountered.

Dull and monotonous writing. Zero character development. The exotic locale of Africa reduced to sand and thorns, with a few cardboard cut-outs of Africans standing around.

Then, on page 192 (out of 900), conflict finally creates the true beginnings of a story. It is here, despite the conflict being the horror of abduction leading into a lifetime of slavery, where I finally realized I needed to let go of my desire to experience any character development and submit instead to Haley's true gifts, which are research and story-telling.

The story, from roughly pages 192 to 853, is often compelling. I have read many works of fiction and some non-fiction from this time period, and this book obviously contributes a completely unique perspective. In particular, I appreciated Haley showing slavery as not only an evil and despicable practice, but an absurd one as well. And, Kunta Kinte's observations, as an educated and Muslim African amongst slaves who had lost their heritage, their religions, and their families were absolutely thought-provoking and often heart-breaking.

Yet, when the finally-interesting story shifts again, to the first-person narrator at the end, I felt it was really the final blow for me. Left in the hands of a more capable writer, the ending, where Haley reveals his process and research, could have been fascinating. It was not, and the final pages, where he discusses the death of his father, made no cogent sense to me and had no connection to the rest of the story.

I applaud the incredible scope of this book and its huge cultural, ancestral, social and spiritual contributions, but I really struggled with the writing. If you happen to be reading this and feel similarly, I would highly recommend both Margaret Walker's Jubilee and Toni Morrison's Beloved as far more literary works which deal with slavery and its lasting impact on fully developed characters. ...more
5

Apr 20, 2018

African-American writer Haley based this book on the oral stories of his family history, handed down to him as a child by his grandmother, who was part of a chain of family memory-keepers going back to the 18th century, to (and even before) the arrival of their ancestor Kunta Kinte in this country as a kidnapped slave. As an adult, Haley painstakingly researched the historical written records to confirm and amplify these stories, even traveling to West Africa, where a griot --a keeper of tribal African-American writer Haley based this book on the oral stories of his family history, handed down to him as a child by his grandmother, who was part of a chain of family memory-keepers going back to the 18th century, to (and even before) the arrival of their ancestor Kunta Kinte in this country as a kidnapped slave. As an adult, Haley painstakingly researched the historical written records to confirm and amplify these stories, even traveling to West Africa, where a griot --a keeper of tribal genealogies and lore-- provided information that dovetailed with his family's own accounts. This book, in large measure, is based on that research. For this reason, most libraries (including the one where I work) have followed the Library of Congress in classifying and shelving it as nonfiction history. That's not, however, an accurate label. The author makes liberal use, in the accounts of the earlier generations, of imaginative reconstructions, invented dialogue, and ascriptions to various characters of unattested thoughts and motives. These devices are dropped in the much shorter accounts of the later generations, beginning with his grandparents (he was born in 1921), which read more like, and actually are, conventional nonfiction.) But the earlier generations take up the vast majority of the book; so I've classified it accordingly as historical fiction.

However, that's in no way said in derogation. This is an exceptionally well-researched and historically grounded novel about actual people; the way Haley creatively fleshes out and envisions the narrative with the techniques of fiction is a superlative example of the way historical novelists should ply their craft. All of the major events of the plot are attested real-life events that actually happened, and what's reconstructed is true to life. In writing dialogue, like other Realist writers before him, Haley also reproduces the authentic dialect of Southern black (and white) speech. He does not do this in any way to ridicule or put down the speakers, but to express the truth that black dialect is no disgrace to be ashamed of; it's as legitimate a regional/sub-cultural adaptation of the English language as any that ever developed among regional and sub-cultural groups of white people.

Most of the recounted historical experiences were in, and shaped by, the cultural context of slavery, and later segregation. No punches are pulled in accurately bringing to life the unconscionable way the slaves were exploited, the vile injustices and outrages they had to put up with as a matter of course, the racism and discrimination they suffered from even after slavery's end. The overall effect of this, seen through black eyes, is extremely powerful; and indeed this book, and the TV miniseries adaptation (which actually doesn't follow the book very closely in the later generations) was probably the single major cultural influence, in the later 20th century, that actually made much of the white community think seriously about that aspect of the American black experience. But, to Haley's credit, this isn't a pity-party that invites both blacks and whites to see the former as helpless perpetual victims. His ancestors weren't people who let themselves be defined as victims. The book as a whole is a testament to black courage, self-reliance and self-help, determination to forge a culture and a way of life in spite of hindrances, and to the strength of the black family. (He also doesn't demonize all whites as such.) As a practicing Christian himself, the author is also sympathetic in his treatment of the black church. (Kunta Kinte was a Moslem; but he married a Christian, and she raised their daughter as one.) The subtitle says it all: The Saga of an American Family. This family is as American, as much a part of the American fabric, as any other; they claim that heritage as a right, and they deserve to be recognized and treated as such as much as any other.

Earlier this year, when I made a list of my 100 top favorite books, this one was on it. Personally, I consider it one book that every American, of whatever race, ought to read. ...more
3

September 5, 2017

Story Fine -- Needs re-edited after poor OCR!
I read this book (my copy's paper jacket looks a lot -- scuffs and tears included -- looks like the image used as the cover) back in the 70s when the original mini-series was televised. The story is very good, especially the long early section on the childhood of Kunta Kinte.

The story is still just as good but the kindle version must have been scanned in with OCR and never checked! I understand that the book was originally published before PCs and general use of word processors and it is a BIG book but still, if you're going to charge for it, fix it.

The spelling and text errors are appalling. Even just a few chapters in, it's hard to read at times. The letter "l" is often lost with "wel" instead of "well" (sometimes with a space and sometimes without). Spaces in the middle of words is also common -- such as "mar about" rather than "marabout".

There's even the string "1}" in the middle of it with no understanding of why it's there!

Come on, don't ruin a good story because people can't read it! Please fix the editing and send us a good copy of it!
1

January 4, 2018

Don't buy the kindle version. Just don't.
I wish I could seperate my opinion about the book from my unhappiness with the kindle version. The formatting is horrific. I am leaving one star because every page has many typos. However, when I can handle overlooking that, I am enjoying the story. Please fix and update the kindle version. I look forward to updating my review when it is repaired. Thanks!
1

Jun 05, 2008

I appreciate the author's research of his own roots and the overall message this book has. The problem I had with it was that the writing style was uninteresting. It wasn't bad but it made the characters too two-dimensional for me to enjoy the story overall. They were all empty and I couldn't cheer for them or feel for them. But I understand why the book is important to some and why it has the position it has, I just didn't notice the literary value it supposedly has. Plus the plagiarism I appreciate the author's research of his own roots and the overall message this book has. The problem I had with it was that the writing style was uninteresting. It wasn't bad but it made the characters too two-dimensional for me to enjoy the story overall. They were all empty and I couldn't cheer for them or feel for them. But I understand why the book is important to some and why it has the position it has, I just didn't notice the literary value it supposedly has. Plus the plagiarism accusations can't be good for an author's reputation and respect. ...more
3

Oct 15, 2012

The teenage self who first read this book would have given it five stars without hesitation. The conception is brilliant. I don't think there's a better way to really absorb history, and really inspire people to dig deeper, than what this purported to do. To really have you come face to face with history by telling the story of one family, especially in fictional narrative form, where people of the past can be brought vividly to mind as people who bled and sweated and struggled. And Alex Haley The teenage self who first read this book would have given it five stars without hesitation. The conception is brilliant. I don't think there's a better way to really absorb history, and really inspire people to dig deeper, than what this purported to do. To really have you come face to face with history by telling the story of one family, especially in fictional narrative form, where people of the past can be brought vividly to mind as people who bled and sweated and struggled. And Alex Haley had claimed not to be just writing a novel, but telling the story of his family--who he claimed he had traced back to its roots in Africa where his ancestor Kunta Kinte, in what is today Gambia, had been kidnapped into slavery and brought to America. There was nothing quite like that when it was published in 1976, and the miniseries based upon it was a landmark in American television.

But since publication, the book has drawn controversy. First, this was marketed--and is still widely regarded--as factual history, even if told in fictional form. But geneologists who retraced Haley's footsteps found that Haley's pre-Civil War genealogy is not, as he had claimed, substantiated by public records. And the book hangs precisely on the pre-Civil war family--838 of Roots' 888 pages dealt with events from Kunta Kinte's birth in Africa in 1750 to the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Just google Roots and "controversy" or "criticism" and you can read the details of the dispute over the book's historicity yourself. The "griot" Haley supposedly found linking him to an African heritage was no griot, and was reportedly pressured and coached into telling Haley what he wanted to hear. And as a Village Voice article by Philip Nobile detailed, Haley's own notes reveal that Kunta Kinte and Roots is largely a work of Haley's imagination.

All right then, what we're dealing with is a novel. Just Haley's attempts to put it over as history admittedly tarnishes the book for me now, but there's another problem. The 30 Anniversary edition I looked through alluded to the other major issue that has come up since publication: plagiarism. As part of a court settlement, Haley admitted to lifting passages from Harold Courlander's The African. The 30 anniversary edition makes it sound like it was only a few paragraphs, but I've read the court papers charged over 80 different passages were involved. And I can't say I buy Haley's explanation that the work of other researchers made it undifferentiated and unsourced among Haley's notes from where he inadvertently copied it. What was material from a novel doing in research notes? There was also a charge that Haley plagiarized Margaret Walker Alexander's novel, Jubilee--but those charges were dismissed by the court as unsubstantiated. On the other hand, one commentator who actually bothered to read Courlander's The African said he found no real similarities in plot or character with Roots. Maybe so, I haven't read The African. So, giving Haley the benefit of the doubt about the plagiarism being substantial, is Roots still worth reading as a novel in the tradition of Michener and Rutherfurd? I think so, but I admit knowing what I do, the book has slipped quite far down in my esteem. ...more
5

Jun 01, 2016

Alex Haley's novel is more than just a piece of award-winning literature, but a glimpse into the soul of America's lifeblood, even though it touches on areas that many would likely wish to see forgotten. In the opening portion of the novel, Haley introduces the reader to the small villages of Gambia, where one Kunta Kinte is born and raised. Kunta explores a life of simplicity but also relative complexity, as he grows up learning the ways of his people, always warned about the dangers of the Alex Haley's novel is more than just a piece of award-winning literature, but a glimpse into the soul of America's lifeblood, even though it touches on areas that many would likely wish to see forgotten. In the opening portion of the novel, Haley introduces the reader to the small villages of Gambia, where one Kunta Kinte is born and raised. Kunta explores a life of simplicity but also relative complexity, as he grows up learning the ways of his people, always warned about the dangers of the white man lurking in the shadows. As he develops a better understanding of his culture and the plight of becoming a man, Kunta fosters a strong sense of self. While foraging in the forest one day, he is captured and dragged aboard a slave ship, destined for the American colonies. It is here that Haley takes the story in its heart-wrenching direction, complete with the horrors of slavery and their treatment. As Kunta acclimates himself to life as a slave (as best as one can), he learns that his horrors are only beginning. After trying to escape, he is punished severely and sent to live on another plantation, where he is able to develop more of a sense of self, while still refusing to adopt the 'American' slave mentality. Slowly, he is acclimated into the lifestyle of a slave and is able to advance on the plantation, to the point of marrying and having a child of his own. Young Kizzy learns of her African ancestry from her father, though does not have the same passion, even with his blood coursing through her veins. As Kizzy grows, she learns to love the African side of her heritage, though is also prone to living the life in America. A gamble of her own sees her punished and shipped to a new plantation, where she is never to see her father again. That is soon the least of her worries, as more horrors befall Kizzy and she soon has a son, young George, the third Kinte generation living in slavery. Raising her son as best she can while dealing with a less than pleasant slave owner, Kizzy tries to instil some of the same values she learned from Kunta. As he grows, George, too, develops his place on the plantation and becomes a valuable asset to his master. It is this relationship and the historical background told through the narrative that forges some of the most curious aspects of Haley's story, not to be lost in the transition from Kunta to Kizzy and now to George and the family he raises. The subsequent four generations spin their stories in the latter portion of the book, with each collection of slaves (and eventually freed blacks) holding onto the oral history Kunta Kinte brought with him. Published at a time when America had to come to terms with its past to look ahead into the future, Haley strikes a necessary nerve as he explores a history only mentioned in passing on pages of school history books. A must-read for all readers, no matter their personal interests.

The book's release coincided with America's bicentennial, though Haley refuses to admit there is anything intentional there. The story, no matter when it was told, shaped America and the way slavery was seen, through the eyes of those who lived in chains. While the book served as the foundation to the topic in the late 1970s, it was the creation into a television phenomena that saw many more people learn truths they never wanted to discover. Haley paints a dour view of the slave trade and lifestyle, but does so with supported truths and a vivid narrative that tells a more complete story than many history texts might. Beginning well before any delivery to the shores of America, Haley facilitates a bond with Kunta Kinte before pushing the narrative into the darker and more sinister aspects of race relations and the acceptance of the slave trade and use of slaves on plantations across the colonial region. Using historical happenings as a backdrop, the reader can see the progression of the trade and how there was surely a clash between belief systems of the slaves themselves. Kunta's strong Islamic beliefs do not coincide with the colonialisation of many slaves on the plantations, from their speech to their Christian beliefs and even onto their acceptance of the double standard as it relates to treatment by young whites. While Haley does touch on many of these areas, he does not downplay anything nor does he try to offer a one-sided approach that tries to paint blacks as solely victims. Spanning seven generations, the latter chapters pull Haley into the story's narrative, forcing the reader to realise that this is not solely a piece of fiction. Kunta Kinte was, presumably, the four-time great-grandfather of the author and the stories spun within this book are oral recountings of lives lived. Complete with language and phraseology of the times, the story comes to life on so many levels, leaving the reader onto to choose which character they will affix themselves to through the journey. This is a seminal piece of literature that should not be left to gather dust on the shelf. That it took me so long to find and read it is shameful on my part.

Kudos, Mr. Haley for opening my eyes to something about which I always knew happened, but chose not to explore. You have captivated me (and the world) with this novel and surely helped shape many acquire a better understanding of slavery in the United States.

Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:
http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/
...more
5

Jul 04, 2018

I read this book some time ago and I also watched the television series.
One of those books that really makes you think about the lives that some people endured.
This book and the television series had me in tears. Very well written and very highly recommended.
4

Jun 17, 2016

I think it significantly affected my reading of Roots having come to it with the knowledge that Haley had been accused of plagiarism by Harold Courlander "The African" and Margaret Walker Alexander "Jubilee". While nothing can undermine the horrors experienced by slaves during this period, there was some question in my mind about the integrity of the author and thus, his ability to accurately portray these truths, even within the framework of fiction.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny the I think it significantly affected my reading of Roots having come to it with the knowledge that Haley had been accused of plagiarism by Harold Courlander "The African" and Margaret Walker Alexander "Jubilee". While nothing can undermine the horrors experienced by slaves during this period, there was some question in my mind about the integrity of the author and thus, his ability to accurately portray these truths, even within the framework of fiction.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny the sheer stomach churning, tear inducing brutality and barbarity with which these men and women were treated. There are passages within the novel, particularly during Kunta Kinte's sea travel to America, that made me feel physically sick and mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. These things shouldn't even be written for people to have to read, never mind have actually happened. Happened over and over again. If there is anything that fiction can do, sometimes better than pure factual history, is invite the reader to see more clearly and feel more deeply. I think the new tv series will show this in a truly powerful fashion.

Yet that is the conundrum of this work- Haley seems to excellently illustrate this life, this man Kunte Kinte, yet we also know he stole from other authors. I don't know enough about the period, or the lives of slaves, to really evaluate, and that is something I will have to rectify. Perhaps that is compliment enough to the author, that I now need to know more and will be active in looking for more information, that I feel like I need a greater understanding.

Many thanks to Perseus Books Group/Da Capo Press and Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review. ...more
3

Feb 07, 2016

this is a perfect example of a book that would benefit from GR offering different rating criteria, rather than just one overall rating.

because of the cultural and historical significance of roots, it deserves 5-stars. but because i was really expecting much stronger writing and a smoother style - i mean, he's got 900 pages to work with here; it's not like there's a shortage of space - i feel like the book was only 2 to 3-stars on the quality of writing.

i did very much enjoy the dialects haley this is a perfect example of a book that would benefit from GR offering different rating criteria, rather than just one overall rating.

because of the cultural and historical significance of roots, it deserves 5-stars. but because i was really expecting much stronger writing and a smoother style - i mean, he's got 900 pages to work with here; it's not like there's a shortage of space - i feel like the book was only 2½ to 3-stars on the quality of writing.

i did very much enjoy the dialects haley used, so that was in no way an issue. (mentioned only because i have read a lot of reviews where this seems to be a chief complaint.) but there seemed to be strands that never came to much (the foreshadowing of a terrible relationship between brothers ashford and tom, for example, went exactly nowhere.) as well, chunks of time were skipped. i know haley was covering a lot of years, and not every single one could be accounted for, but some of these transitions were really awkward. for example, kunta kinte, so fierce, strong and determined to get free...skip ahead 4 years and he's resigned to his lot and on edge a bit still, but content-ish. to me, that was a jarring point in the book and a point at which i wanted more information. as well, the book - at least the edition i read - just went directly from the novel into alex haley's own recollections. the chapters just continuing as though nothing different was going on. it was interesting, but oddly presented.

i am very glad i have read the book, though. we had a first edition of it in our home when i was a kid. i did flip through it, reading bits of it; but i never read the whole book. and when the TV series debuted, it was a big deal - i remember watching it with my mum. so i have long felt like i knew the story. it's about time i actually, finally, read roots

and, really, for my criticisms of haley's writing style, i did find myself very engaged with the story of kunta kinte and the generations of his family. i think haley did a very good job bringing to life the horrors of slavery and the suffering endured. i will never, ever understand how people ever thought slavery, and all the evil cruelties involved, were acceptable. so this is a very necessary story, even with the brouhaha surrounding the work set aside.

harvard university professor dr. henry louis gates, jr. was a friend of haley, but years after his death gates acknowledged doubts about the author's claims. He said, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. Roots is a work of the imagination rather than strict historical scholarship. It was an important event because it captured everyone's imagination."

...more
4

Feb 09, 2017



"Based on Alex Haley’s novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, whose 1977 TV adaptation remains one of the most-watched dramas in US TV history, this powerful story remains as relevant today as it was nearly forty years ago."source
5

Mar 12, 2018

I read this book when it first came out, many years ago. It touched me deeply and I waited patiently for each episode of the t.v. program based on it to air. You cannot read this book, nor see the images, without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. It's one thing to read about what was done to people; it's another thing to see it played out in front of you. Even though it's acting, you will feel every tear that is shed, every whip that lands, every family that is separated....all of it and more I read this book when it first came out, many years ago. It touched me deeply and I waited patiently for each episode of the t.v. program based on it to air. You cannot read this book, nor see the images, without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. It's one thing to read about what was done to people; it's another thing to see it played out in front of you. Even though it's acting, you will feel every tear that is shed, every whip that lands, every family that is separated....all of it and more than can be described.

The book is the result of the late Alex Haley's journey to discover his "roots". The story leads him back to - and the book begins in - 1750, in the village of Juffre in Gambia, West Africa, with the birth of a baby boy. The name Kunta Kinte resounds through all of the generations that follow him, including Alex.

I cannot say much about this book that hasn't already been said. It should be required reading in the schools. We must never forget what mankind has done to mankind. There aren't many books that I can quote decades after reading them, but this is one. It deserves to be savored and read. ...more
5

Apr 07, 2008

This is probably the book that started my historical fiction fixation. I read this in my early teenage years along with the Clan of the Cavebear books, Gone With The Wind and the North and South series.

I love how it brings history to life. The characters are real and you can sympathize with their situations -- particularly Kunta Kinte's. It made the horrible practice of slavery real and how it dehumanizing it was. I think that reading it at a young age made me into a more compassionate person. This is probably the book that started my historical fiction fixation. I read this in my early teenage years along with the Clan of the Cavebear books, Gone With The Wind and the North and South series.

I love how it brings history to life. The characters are real and you can sympathize with their situations -- particularly Kunta Kinte's. It made the horrible practice of slavery real and how it dehumanizing it was. I think that reading it at a young age made me into a more compassionate person. I also liked how the book explained Kunta's African heritage. This is a beautifully woven book that spans many generations from the mid-1700's through 1940's. ...more

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