Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (4): Roots by Alex Haley ★★★★★

Created by JG, The Introverted Reader, "Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature which gives us the opportunity of sharing older reviews from another source (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, whatever) on our blog.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, but hey, we live and learn, right? ;)

RootsDescription: Roots begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. 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. (Source: Goodreads)

My Review- Originally written April 2, 2009 on Goodreads:
I'm so glad that I read this. I'm not sure how much of the story is true, but I'd like to believe it all is.

I love history when it tells a story. Endless facts and figures and dates are boring and tedious, which is exactly what "Roots" isn't. Almost from the first page, I felt that the people being described were REAL people, not characters someone has created out of nothing. The story of Kunta Kinte and his descendants really touched me in their determination to keep not only Kunta's memory alive, but to make sure that every single member of their family knew who they were. That's something that I don't really think a lot of people think or even care about these days. I know I myself never really thought about it, but I am now.

I also really loved Haley's writing style, which was simple and honest, without trying to overemphasize the horrors that his ancestors must have endured. I'm glad that he didn't make the atrocities overbearing, because that would have made the story unbelievable to some, even if every word is true. His method of "tracking" a particular family member was a bit shocking at the first major shift, but after reading the rest of the story, it only makes sense; this is as much a tribute to Kunta as it is a family history, but Kunta can only take us so far.

It also struck me in the segue between Kunta's and Kizzy's story the stark reality that in the life of a slave, nothing was certain. From day to day, even minute to minute, the whim of someone else can change the entire course of a life. Kizzy was removed from Kunta's life abruptly, and just like his own parents, he was cursed with the fact that he never knew what happened to her. That has got to be the hardest thing a parent can endure, and it was so commonplace that it sickens me.

It's so easy to forget the terrible things that we can do to each other. So I'm glad that Haley decided to put into print his and his family's history.


  1. I've never read the book, but I re-watched the entire miniseries with my daughter a few years ago, having seen it when it originally aired in the 1970's. Except for the corny music, it stood up very well. It's worth renting sometime or getting from the library.

  2. Yes, I've seen the mini-series, and it is very good. The book is much, much better though! :)