Friday, 5 April 2013

''Roots: The Saga of an American Family''- Book review

Author: Alex Haley
Published: 1976

Genres: Novel, Historical fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5


It took me ten days to read this book- or even more than that- and I can't describe how overwhelmed I am! Alex Haley's vivid, well researched, overall emotionally wonderful novel has completely impressed me. It's really a must-read for all bookworms and history lovers.

The author of ''Roots'', Alex Haley, an African-American, had heard from his grandmother and great-aunts, about Kunta Kinte, his ancestor born in Africa, who had been kidnapped by white men and brought to America and made a slave. The descendants of Kunta Kinte kept the family history alive by orally passing the stories to the next generations, and this how the story had reached Alex Haley.

At his adult life, Haley became extremely interested in learning more about his family history, to form and realize more from the broken fragments of the story he had heard from his grandmothers. Then started a hard and long research of twelve years. Alex Haley, after trips to different libraries, going through old censuses, records, documents and reports and also going to The Gambia, where Kunta Kinte originally was from. He met griots, oral historians of Africa, who informed him more about his African ancestor, the family legand, Kunta Kinte. And finally, after twelve years of hard research, Haley could form a more clear and vivid picture of his family history.  Roots is the result of his research.

Roots tells the story of family history of Haley from the birth of his great-great-great-great-grandfather Kunta Kinte. Kunta was born and raised in strict tradition and cultures. He was just like any other free person- working, learning, playing, in the midst of the green beauty of nature, and strict cultures of Africa. And then when he was, at the age of seventeen, kidnapped by white people (whom Africans called ''toubobs'') and on a big ship, under physical tortures and harsh conditions, transported to America, where he was enslaved.

But Kunta never gave his hope up. He always used to abide by his culture and traditions learned in Africa. He also, personally, firmly denied the name ''Toby'' which the white people called him by. And he also tried to run away FOUR TIMES, only to be discovered and given severe, extremely severe punishments.
Kunta's daughter, Kizzy, passed the story of her father to her son George, George passed the story of Kunta to his sons, and then like this, ultimately it reached Haley, Kunta's fourth great-grandson, who worked hard for years to construct a detailed portrait of his family history.

Certainly, ''Roots'' is not entirely factual. In fact, Haley himself had called the book ''faction'', a mixture of facts and fiction. On writing this book, Haley had not only researched his own family history, but also had to study in depth about African cultures, history, traditions, as well as about the political situations of America during the 18th and 19th centuries.

''Roots'' spans over two hundred years (from 1750 to the 1970s). Every character was in some way memorable. I had mixed feelings for Kunta Kinte, feeling sympathy at times, and also I felt him irritating a couple of times, but when the story shifted to Kunta's daughter Kizzy, I realized how attached I had become to the character. Kunta's story is for over four hundred pages, more than half of the book, and readers can easily become attached with the character.

I had many favorite characters. Kunta, Bell, Kizzy, Matilda, Irene, Tom (George's son), Cynthia, Uncle Mingo, Miss Malizy, and so many others.

The story shifts and gives emphasis on the next generations, and it is wonderful how Haley made us give importance to whomever the story shifted to. The last few chapters are narrated by Haley from the first person point-of-view, narrating his growing up, coming across the pieces of his family history, and joining them together through years of hard works, efforts, and determinations.

Roots is not just a tale of the two hundred years in the lives of the family, but it is also  thoroughly detailed about those times, filled with details about the situations and the events occurring. It is a thorough examination of human nature. AND about how history and genealogy are so valuable, and if even a slightest part of it is carefully preserved, we can join the pieces together BY research. I've always been interested in genealogy, and ''Roots'' was an emotional and wonderful read for me.

5 out of 5!


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