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Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Roots: The Saga of an American Family

4.8 48
by Alex Haley

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This "bold...extraordinary...blockbuster..." (Newsweek magazine) 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 Haley was a boy growing


This "bold...extraordinary...blockbuster..." (Newsweek magazine) 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 Haley 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 Haley 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.

While Haley created certain unknown details of his family history, ROOTS is definitely based on the facts of his ancestry, and the six generations of people—slaves and freedmen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, teacher—and one acclaimed author—descended from Kunte Kinte. But with this book, Haley did more than recapture the history of his own family. He popularized genealogy for people of all races and colors; and in so doing, wrote one of the most important and beloved books of all time, a true Modern Classic.

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."

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
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

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

Doubleday Publishing
Publication date:

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 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
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.
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.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Kunta kinta
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was a shock to me that Alex haley confessed to many points of plagerism in his book 'Roots' It has been ahile since I read this book but there our scenes within it that I will never forget. I was just talking about the bookj today and I figured I would finally come and give the books its well deserved 5 stars. Read this book, it is great.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is so far the best book i have read in my life. This book really makes you join the family adventure as if you where there with them to experince ther thrilling story life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i was never intrested in the struggles of the african american race, until i read this book. it pulls you in and you wont put it down nomatter what level of reading you are at. i still have yet to see the mini series but i dont feel that i need to after the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kunta Kinte, the african, who is judged 'inferior', 'person with lack of undersanding' by the white society only because of the color of his complexion,his legacy survives even through the cruel and humane practice of slavery through many generations. It's indeed a sad book, but a worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roots is a moving and sometimes very sad story... Alex Haley showed White America 'the hororrs witnessed by blacks for the lst 400 years' 10/10 stars READ IT!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read 'Roots' twice. It's moving and it has you thinking about life and of what it used to be. This book is great! Read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All I have to say is I am 16 and I love this book. It's great. It makes you realize a lot of things. Long but good! You gotta love Kunta Kinte!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alex Haley masterfully depicts the journey of an African man captured then sold into slavery, and that of his decendants. From the village of Juffure to Arkansas, every sentence in Haley's captivating epic is beatifully crafted. The novel is as informative as it is provocative. It brilliantly displays the emergence of an African American family from an African man.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roots is the story of an American family. Since it is a classic, it has withstood the test of time. There is some violence, so don't read it if you are under 13. Roots takes place in west Africa & the southern United States. The main character, Kunta Kinte, is strong & he's named for hiw grandfather- a great warrior. Kunta Kinte is taken to the United States and he is sold into slavery. This book provides escape & a sense of history. But, it took a much longer time to read than I expected. If you have a lot of time on your hands, I would recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i belive that he expressed his feelings within the book itself i'm only 23 and this is number one book i read almost every summer. people who think it is boring don't understand the concopt of the whole story. i love this book and i think that a person can write anything they want too, this book is a preview of what is in the further.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alex Haley's 'Roots' captures generations of love, tears, pain, strife, sacrifice, and happiness in 700-something pages. I found myself getting so involved and moved by the characters' stories that I often had to put the book down (it was not a 'light, summer novel' as someone had told me!)A great book nonetheless and a MUST READ for the younger generation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It may not be all totally true for his line but it is a great story for the ages. I couldn't put it down in some parts and was so heart broken that I swore I didn't want to read anymore in other parts. I love the style it was written with and the determination it instills in anyone who reads it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first got interested in Roots from seeing the miniseries back when I was little. I didn't really understand what I was watching. Last year, the miniseries came on television for Black History Month. I was so engrossed in it that I decided to read the book. I have read the book twice and I am now doing a research paper on the novel in college. I felt what Alex Haley was feeling during those 12 years of researching information for this novel. Everyone should know there backgrounds and ancestors. It takes a lot of determination and brillance to be able to travel to many different places to find out about your family's genealogy. Alex Haley is a wise individual and I thank him for teaching myself and other African Americans about their heritage.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It can be observed throughout the entire book of Roots a repeating pattern of events that allow me to think about how for generations a family could hold on to their faith, beliefs, and traditions no matter what. Also, throughout this long life-span journey of Kunta Kinte and his proceeding family tree, and their experiences with the opposing lives of free-men and slaves, the author presents a precise central idea or opinion that is past down from generation to generation. This central idea is so clearly emphasized by the title of the book, Roots. Alex Haley¿s opinion on the importance of a family or individual¿s roots or origins is much similar to the necessity of roots for the survival of plants; that provide anchoring and support. Not only did Haley believe that roots played a key roll in his life and the life of his entire family tree, but that in some cases it is the only noble aspect of life that one could be proud of, as it determines his identity. I am totally supportive of the author¿s opinion, as us human beings sometimes are stripped away from our natural and civil rights and are left with nothing to hold on to but the spiritual and historical pragmatic aspects of life: roots, origins, faith, and religion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
yes i think this book is a good reader it realy covers back in the time of slavery and since it was past on generation to generation the story is truly a heart breaking memory of the past and what realy took place i would recomend this book to any one alex does a good job explianing his history
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books that I have read! I am only a teen but this book grabbed my attention and I couldn't put it down. It gave me a new look at life now. I think everyone should read this book
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked Roots out of my dad's book case when I was only four, and ever since I have liked admiring it's large size. Finally, I decided I should probably read this book. Just after the birth of Kunta I was engrossed in the fine art of Alex Haley's writing. I am usually one to become bored if nothing interesting is happening in a story, but who could put down a book like ROOTS? It was sorrow, love, pain, family, and holding on all in one. It's richness was beautiful. ROOTS has taught me that one should never underestimate a book by it's genre. I used to be only interested in fiction, but now I read almost any genre. ROOTS will always be in my heart, no matter how old I am...
Guest More than 1 year ago
i haven't read this book yet, but, i want to so if you have any comments,please e-mail me at fitzjan317@aol.com
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roots is one of those books that you feel everyone should read. It can bring tears and immense smiles to your face. Alex Haley really brings out the truth, and he taught me several things I did not know about black history! This book is an INSTANT CLASSIC!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book Roots and it was absolutly amazing. For someone to go through so much trouble to write an book on his family ancestory is just increadible. I am in 9th grade and I read the book by choice for a history project. I didn't even have to write a word down because it was something that really got my attention. I will never regret not choosing a shorter book. The book was really informative and really got my attention. I would recomend this book to anyone who loves to read. Even if you don't love reading, it is well worth the time.