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Roots: The Saga of an American Family (30th Anniversary Edition)
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Roots: The Saga of an American Family (30th Anniversary Edition)

4.4 157
by Alex Haley, Michael Eric Dyson (Introduction)

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One of the most important books and television series ever to appear, Roots, galvanized the nation, and created an extraordinary political, racial, social and cultural dialogue that hadn’t been seen since the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book sold over one million copies in the first year, and the miniseries was watched


One of the most important books and television series ever to appear, Roots, galvanized the nation, and created an extraordinary political, racial, social and cultural dialogue that hadn’t been seen since the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book sold over one million copies in the first year, and the miniseries was watched by an astonishing 130 million people. It also won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Roots opened up the minds of Americans of all colors and faiths to one of the darkest and most painful parts of America’s past. 

Over the years, both Roots and Alex Haley have attracted controversy, which comes with the territory for trailblazing, iconic books, particularly on the topic of race. Some of the criticism results from whether Roots is fact or fiction and whether Alex Haley confused these two issues, a subject he addresses directly in the book. There is also the fact that Haley was sued for plagiarism when it was discovered that several dozen paragraphs in Roots were taken directly from a novel, The African, by Harold Courlander, who ultimately received a substantial financial settlement at the end of the case. 

But none of the controversy affects the basic issue. Roots fostered a remarkable dialogue about not just the past, but the then present day 1970s and how America had fared since the days portrayed in Roots. Vanguard Press feels that it is important to publish Roots: The 30th Anniversary Edition to remind the generation that originally read it that there are issues that still need to be discussed and debated, and to introduce to a new and younger generation, a book that will help them understand, perhaps for the first time, the reality of what took place during the time of Roots.

Editorial Reviews

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."

Publishers Weekly

It's hard to believe that it has been 30 years since Alex Haley's groundbreaking historical novel (based on his own family's history) was first published and became a worldwide phenomenon. Millions have read the story of the young African boy named Kunte Kinte, who in the late 1700s was kidnapped from his homeland and brought to the United States as a slave. Haley follows Kunte Kinte's family line over the next seven generations, creating a moving historical novel spanning 200 years. Avery Brooks proves to be the perfect choice to bring Haley's devastatingly powerful piece of American literature to audio. Brooks's rich, deep baritone brings a deliberate, dignified, at times almost reverential interpretation to his reading, but never so reserved as to forget that at its heart this is a story about people and family. His multiple characterizations manage, with a smooth and accomplished ease, to capture the true essence of each individual in the book. Michael Eric Dyson offers an informative introduction to Haley's book, but it is Brooks's performance that brings the author's words and history to life. Simultaneous release with the Vanguard Press paperback reissue. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

When Rootswas published in the mid-1970s, America was still in a period of introspection caused by all things Watergate and the bicentennial celebration. Haley's self-described "novelized amalgam" chronicled seven generations of his family, from West Africa to the United States and back. Roots-both the book and the groundbreaking TV miniseries that followed-became a cultural phenomenon. To commemorate the 30th anniversary, both the out-of-print book and unavailable video have been rereleased. Ironically, Haley's work, which had its genesis in stories deeply rooted and handed down through the African and African American oral tradition, has never been available on audio-until now. After the author's acknowledgments, the audiobook begins with "Haley's Comet," an introduction written and read by Georgetown University professor and cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson, who was a 17-year-old student at the height of Roots' popularity. It is a cursory essay that adds little to the presentation. Additionally, one might have expected the audiobook to be a multicast undertaking; however, actor Avery Brooks has the monumental task of narrating the entire project. His powerful baritone voice is-as necessary-forceful, evocative, scholarly, and descriptive. While he doesn't attempt to give each secondary character a distinctive voice, he infuses his reading with inflections that define their personalities. Recommended for all libraries. [Though listed as nonfiction on the cover, Rootsis generally considered historical fiction.-Ed.]
—Gwendolyn Osborne

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

Product Details

Vanguard Press
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5.70(w) x 8.10(h) x 2.00(d)
1330L (what's this?)

Meet the Author

Alex Haley taught himself to write during a twenty year career in the U.S. Coast Guard. After retiring, he worked as a freelance magazine writer. His first book was The Autobiography of Malcom X, on which he was collaborator and editor. Roots: The Saga of An American Family was his second book, for which he was awarded special recognition from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award committees. He also wrote A Different Kind of Christmas, and Queen, a sequel to Roots. Haley died in 1992.

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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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