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Roots by Alex Haley

Roots (1976)

by Alex Haley

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English (57)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All (61)
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I would recommend this book to everyone. It's a saga but well worth the time! ( )
  Janellreads | Oct 18, 2017 |
"Roots" is the story of Kunta Kinte- a black West African teenager- who is kidnapped at age seventeen and is sold to a white slave trader. The abduction occurred in 1750 after which Kinte survived the treacherous four month journey to the United States. Suffering inhumane and unsanitary conditions in the dark hull of a ship, he survives shackles, near starvation, and regular beatings only to be purchased by a plantation owner in Virginia. This is his story.

Alex Haley follows Kinta Kinte’s family tree from the lush African tribal wilderness through the next six generations in America. His American descendants experience the Revolutionary War, slave uprisings, and the Civil War when the last of Kunta Kinte’s family is finally set free.

Published in 1974, "Roots" scored a formidable debut partially because it was advertised as an autobiography. This later proved to be false when Alex Haley was accused of plagiarizing several other novels. One case was settled out of court awarding Harold Courlander $650,000. Alex Haley eventually admitted that much of the "Roots" story is fictional.

It was not surprising to discover this book is pure fiction. Haley paints a picture of African life in the 1700s as a fairytale paradise: loving families, beautiful traditions, communal harmony within the tribe, and no illnesses of which to speak. He barely mentions that it was black Africans who sold the natives to slave traders. Not that this deliberately omitted information in any way paints the white slave owners in a better light, but by omission, it sure creates a much more horrific contrast. Alex Haley spares no words in the detailed cruel treatment of the slaves once they left African soil. It is hard to read of the beatings, torture, and rape endured as every day occurrences.

Haley provides many details about life on the plantation in the slaves quarters. They include inter-breeding between plantation masters and young black women resulting in illegitimate “colored” children who also became slaves, the hierarchy of slaves based on their jobs, and their opportunities to buy freedom. Haley devotes significant attention to gambling at cock fights which became a big part of life on some plantations and is an essential part of the plot in "Roots".

Haley is a good storyteller, but as the narrative progressed it lost some of it’s credibility. At times the plantation living took on a fairytale quality. And by the time the Kinte family reached the 4th and 5th generation of families of 8 children (each), I started losing interest and fortunately by that time the story was almost over. Haley depicts some members of the Kinte clan just one generation away from slavery as business owners and college graduates in the early 1900s? Really? According to census statistics only 10% of blacks graduated from high school. Less than 4% attended college. But with Haley’s telling, along with freedom came peace, prosperity, and good times for all.

The story of Kinta Kinte was made into a TV miniseries in 1977 and strongly promoted by Oprah Winfrey on her daytime TV show in 2012 - the 35th anniversary of the series production of "Roots". ( )
  LadyLo | Sep 29, 2017 |
Have been meaning to read this for awhile, so when i saw a pristine copy in a charity shop this afternoon it had to be bought
  Pezski | Jun 8, 2017 |
In terms of the reading the book, it was a very enjoyable experience. It is well-written and the story carries itself well with presenting and personalizing the inhumanity of Slavery. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Book on CD performed by Avery Brooks.

Haley’s blockbuster history of his ancestors begins with the birth of a baby boy – Kunta Kinte – in a small African village in the Spring of 1750, and ends two centuries later in Arkansas.

It’s a gripping tale and Haley is a great story teller. I was engaged from page one and found myself very interested in all aspects of the book – from Kunta Kinte’s boyhood in Africa, to his experiences as a slave, to the continued story of his descendants and how they kept the story of “the African” alive through the generations.

Haley’s narrative focuses on three of his male ancestors. Kunta Kinte’s story takes nearly half the book. His grandson “Chicken George” occupies much of the third of the book. And George’s son Tom, is the focus of the next major section as the family is emancipated at the end of the Civil War. I am struck by the fact that Haley gives little attention to the women in his ancestral line. Not only is Kizzy given short shrift, but Tom’s daughter Cynthia and granddaughter Bertha (who is Haley’s mother) are given less attention than their husbands – Will Parker and Simon Haley. And this, despite Haley’s statements that it was the “old women” – his grandmother, aunts and cousin who passed along the story of “The African” and his descendants. Still, this is a small quibble.

Avery Brooks does a magnificent job narrating the audio book. He is an accomplished actor and really brings the characters to life. His deeply resonant voice was mesmerizing, and despite his naturally deep timber he managed to give a believable voice to even the young girls.

While the book is catalogued by libraries as nonfiction / biography, Haley obviously had to invent the dialogue he uses for much of the book. (I find it interesting that more readers tag this as “fiction” than nonfiction.) When published the book was a runaway best seller, but also somewhat controversial. Haley was accused of plagiarism and he settled the case out of court, admitting that many passages from The African by Harold Courtlander appeared in his book. Additionally, many genealogists have questioned his research and feel that official records do not confirm the story much before the Civil War. None of this information takes away from the great story, however. ( )
1 vote BookConcierge | Apr 13, 2016 |
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Wij zwarten
It wasn't planned that Roots' researching and writing finally would take twelve years. Just by chance it is being published in the Bicentennial Year of the United States. So I dedicate Roots as a birthday offering to my country within which most of Roots happened.
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Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a manchild was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440174643, Paperback)

It begins with a birth in 1750, in an African village; it ends seven generations later at the Arkansas funeral of a black professor whose children are a teacher, a Navy architect, an assistant director of the U.S. Information Agency, and an author. The author is Alex Haley. This magnificent book is his.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:01 -0400)

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A black American traces his family's origins back to the African who was brought to America as a slave in 1767.

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