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Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Roots: The Saga of an American Family

4.4 157
by Alex Haley

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A new eight-hour event series based on Roots will be simulcast on the History Channel, Lifetime, and A&E over four consecutive nights beginning Memorial Day, May 30, 2016

"Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a man-child was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte."

So begins


A new eight-hour event series based on Roots will be simulcast on the History Channel, Lifetime, and A&E over four consecutive nights beginning Memorial Day, May 30, 2016

"Early in the spring of 1750, in the village of Juffure, four days upriver from the coast of The Gambia, West Africa, a man-child was born to Omoro and Binta Kinte."

So begins Roots, one of the most extraordinary and influential books of our time. Through the story of one family—his family—Alex Haley unforgettably brings to life the monumental two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him: slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workmen and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects...and one author.

A national and international phenomenon at the time of its original publication, Roots continues to enthrall readers with its masterful narrative drive and exceptional emotional power, speaking to us all with an undiminished resonance and relevance.

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage.... Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning no matter what our attainments in life."—Alex Haley

With an introduction by Michael Eric Dyson


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for Roots

"The book is an act of love, and it is this which makes it haunting."—New York Times

"A gripping mixture of urban confessional and political manifesto, it not only inspired a generation of black activists, but drove home the bitter realities of racism to a mainstream white liberal audience."—Observer

"Groundbreaking"—The Associated Press

"A Pulitzer Prize-winning story about the family ancestry of author Alex Haley…[and] a symbolic chronicle of the odyssey of African Americans from the continent of Africa to a land not of their choosing."—Washington Post

Philadelphia Tribune, 6/7/16
“[A] landmark book.”—Marian Wright Edelman

Sacred Life
Roots is the fictionalized account of Alex Haley's family history and an epic narrative of the African American experience. For many African Americans, the novel and the history-making television miniseries it begot were pivotal in their understanding and appreciation of their origins. The story traces Haley's family history from the imagined birth of his ancestor Kant Kin in an African village in 1750 to the death, seven generations later, of his father in Arkansas. Based on fifteen years of research by Haley, the novel is a combination of fact and fiction—it is often referred to as faction—that puts a human face on the suffering of black people through the ordeal of the Middle Passage, slavery, and Jim Grow. Its combination of compelling, affectionate storytelling and informative history has had a revolutionary effect on the way Americans—black and white—think about the history of a people.

The story, like that of Olaudah Equiano, begins in an idyllic African world destroyed by Europeans. Haley's description of Kinte's journey to America in the hold of a slave ship is harrowing and indelibly memorable. Kinte is enslaved in America but is still proud, refusing to forsake his African name or heritage. He passes on stories of Africa to his daughter, Kizzy, who bears a child, Chicken George. George is a successful cockfighter whose father is also his master—a common situation in the time of slavery but one that is treated with unusual sensitivity here. George passes the stories of his grandfather on to his children, including Tom, who marries a part-Indian woman named Irene. Tom and Irene have eight children, one of whom is Haley's grandmother. She passes the family stories to her daughter, who passes them on to Haley. Haley, in turn, tells the story, from Kunta Kinte to Chicken George, to his own grandmother, to his children.

Haley has been accused of plagiarism and his book has been criticized for historical inaccuracies, but the novel holds up as a powerful representation of the full African American saga. Haley tells the story of his family—and, by extension, the story of all black people whose family histories are lost in the mists of time—with an immense amount of respect and tenderness. Amidst the undeniable misery of slavery and Jim Crow, he always reveals the outstanding characteristics that sustained his family—spirited resistance, cunning survival instincts, and a will to remember and pass on. James Baldwin captured the book's appeal when he wrote, "Alex Haley's taking us back through time to the village of his ancestors is an act of faith and courage, but this book is also an act of love, and it is this which makes it haunting."

Charles McGrath
....Roots is a study of continuities, of consequences, of how a people perpetuate themselves, how each generation helps to doom, or helps to liberate, the coming one. -- The New York Times Books of the Century
Library Journal
Beginning with the idea that "the black story is the American story," Roots illustrates the brutal horror of slavery through Haley's discovery and interpretation of family history. Masterfully narrated by Avery Brooks.

Product Details

Da Capo Books
Publication date:
Edition description:
Media tie-in
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 2.30(d)

Meet the Author

Alex Haley (1921-1992) was a bestselling and award-winning writer whose works, including Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, centered on the struggles of African Americans.

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Roots 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 157 reviews.
Star_Dreamer More than 1 year ago
As a young girl I remember sitting in front of the television with my family to watch Roots when it had been made into a series. Over the years I have often wanted to read the book and find all the missing parts that the limited series had left out. I am so very glad that I did. The author took me to a time when human slavery was a common place, and allowed me to feel the attrocities that took place during that time. I felt the pain, love and courage of the people and was very glad to be transported to a era that has long been forgotten and should never be. If you would like to read a book that is a fantastic read as well as a eye opening experience, read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Roots, by Alex Haley, is an unforgettable novel that might even have you reaching for the tissues. This book tells us about Americas past when we were still thirteen colonies and when slavery was a big issue for the new country. Roots opens up a perspective on slavery that most have never experienced before and some who probably never will. The book Roots by Alex Haley is a book filled with exiting characters, a suspenseful plot that will keep you turning the pages, and a theme like no other. The characters in this touching novel are very well detailed by the author, it's almost like your right there looking the characters in the face. The main character is Kunta, a small village boy who is very well disciplined, his mom Binta, his dad Omoro, and his three younger brothers, Lamin, Swadu, and Mali. When Kunta becomes older and earn his manhood his little brothers look up to him as a role model. The plot in Roots is like no other, it takes place in two places, in his home country of Africa and then the slave based America. It is extremely detailed, it's like you are there right next to the characters! The plot of Roots changes rapidly sometimes and is slow, saddened and mellow, and sometimes it is exciting, energetic. The theme of Roots is sometimes exciting and sometimes it is mellow. In Roots the theme changes rapidly and can sometimes surprise you. For instance one moment Kunta could be running away from slave catchers and then the next thing you know he could be in a cage with his feet and hands locked together in chains. The book Roots can have you reaching for the tissues or sometimes have you laughing. I recommend this book because it is a very good experience for someone who takes the time to read this book. Alex Haley's Roots, has an exciting plot of characters, a plot like no other, and a theme that can change on you within seconds.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whatever parts are fact or fiction, it's obvious the world needed this book -- but especially black and white Americans. It lays to bare the horrific exploitation of slavery whose effects continue to this day. Race was used an excuse to dehumanize an entire continent of people for greed. Haley successfully re-humanized the enslaved to provide an accurate portrayal of slavery's victims. Similar books are still needed for a variety of aggrieved people who have suffered the worst effects of colonialism. But Haley probably accomplished his goals better than anyone else could have dreamed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alex Haley was my great-uncle, and although I never got to met him, this book helped me get to know him though his writing. This book is an exceptional story about my family's history and I am so proud of my uncle Alex for writing it.
MrsNave More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved reading this book.  The movie does not do this book justice, but then what movie ever does. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone I talk to.  Read it its good. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, Roots by Alex Haley is just a phenomenal book in my opinion and I recommend this book to anyone that wants to learn a little bit about the history of African American slavery In America. This book tells the story of Kunta Kinte (Toby Waller), and a couple of generations after him. This book has a good sense of feel; you can also create imagery of what's going on in the story. This book is powerful enough to make you abhorrent, and bleak.    Since the book is set up the way that it is, you can see how far the African race has come in America. The plot starts from Africa itself, maybe not as far back as the very beginning of the slave trade, but you are still taken through the process of being nabbed, crammed into a tiny slot on a slave ship, and taken to a foreign country for labor. This is a true story that was passed down, so most likely there isn’t anything false about what the book tells you.   Other pieces of history are in the story, I’m not going to tell because I don’t want to give the story away, there definitely are though. The conflicts are what makes the book even more interesting because you can actually put yourself into the setting and understand how the characters felt, and also real people in that time. “A story to remember” is what I call this book. If you didn’t know, there is a movie to this novel. I recommend that you read the book and then watch the movie to see the differences in between the two. The novel has more information in it, which is why you should choose to read the book if you are to choose only one to view. Out of all the other novels on the topic of African-American slavery, this is the most interesting and I highly recommend it. O-Boothe
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of course I had seen the mini series many many times, but had never read the book. As always the book has more detail, and is even better than what I already loved. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't finished it yet, but so far I think it's very good, & plan to pass it on to my friends. I saw the movie & it was very good too, although extremely sad in places.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thnx for making the best book ever , Mr or mrs haley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading the book I watched the DVD. Both were great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the book is just as riveting as the movie.it brings to life the hardships faced by the black Americans so many years ago.following the lives of these people as they fight for their freedom shows us how strong one can be when they have to.they never let anyone or anything stop them from achieving what they wanted.i can't imagine being manhandled like these people were.everyone should read this book and find out how the black people have earned their rights in America.i believe that it should be required reading for high school students studying American history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even if the dear professor above says this book is fiction, one can not dismiss the fact Alex Haley was an exceptional writer. This is the only book I've ever read that I've literally screamed aloud and thrown across the room. While I didn't think it was purely autobiographical, I got the feeling that it wasn't so far from the mark with the history of African Americans in the USA. It's erroneous to dismiss Haley as one of the greatest writers of our times simply because some of the story ideas where slightly amelgamated into Roots. You can say the same thing about John Jakes 'Love and War' and Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'. Being inspired by a story is not the same as plagarizing and as it says in one of the oldest books on the planet, 'There's nothing new under the sun.' They said the same about MLK with plagarism and I question the motives. If you liked this book, also read his biography of 'Malcolm X'. Spike Lee did a major disservice to Haley's writing in the movie version as it didn't capture the sheer magnitude of the man like Haley did.
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