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Description - Roots by Alex Haley

Tracing his ancestry through six generations - slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lawyers and architects - back to Africa, Alex Haley discovered a sixteen-year-old youth, Kunta Kinte. It was this young man, who had been torn from his homeland and in torment and anguish brought to the slave markets of the New World, who held the key to Haley's deep and distant past.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099362814
ISBN-10: 0099362813
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 129mm x 36mm)
Pages: 704
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 3-Jan-1998
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Roots by Alex Haley

UK Kirkus Review » There are many books about slavery but Haley's account of his family, descended from a West African tribesman captured by slave traders in 1765, to his own generation of African Americans that boasts an architect, a music teacher and a successful author, is unique. It is high class historical reconstruction, thoroughly researched and compellingly readable, above all it is the story of a real family written with a sense of compassion and purpose. Haley is intent on showing both the evils of slavery and the strength that a family can gain from a proper pride in its ancestry. Kunte Kinte, born to a Mandika family in the 18th century, grows up in the luscious surroundings of the Gambia in a strict Muslim village. The rigid code of conduct that was upheld in his religious family forms part of the 'roots' that gave the book its title and Kunte the strength to survive the ordeal of his capture and deportation. There are many wonderful characters among Kunte's descendants: Chicken George, the cock-fighting gambler who wins and loses a fortune training his master's chickens, Little Kizzy who learns to write and forges a pass to help her lover escape, and many others. This is a fair-minded story by a man who grew to love America and dedicates his book to it. First published in 1976 and reissued many times, it is a saga that has much to teach every generation whatever their colour or creed. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A feat of research and imagination, this long-awaited, much publicized effort is as exceptional as promised. Haley took the essence of a family story told on summer nights and traced his roots back to Kunta Kinte, an African captured while gathering wood and brought to American in 1767. Haley sensitively reconstructs everyday life in Juffure where driver-ant heads were used as surgical clamps and a hairpiece might cost three goats; it is this concentration on particulars and the slow development of Kunta's pride that dramatize how devastating his capture was - for months he expected to be eaten. The voyage was grim; once here he adjusted reluctantly, resisting the alien slave culture, detesting white domination. Vowing to remain faithful to his heritage, he told his daughter Kizzy about his past; it is this story of his capture (plus some Mandinka words and tribal customs) that traveled orally to the seventh-generation Haley. Kunta's story, the affecting part, occupies more than half the book, but among readers (and on TV this fall) he will have flamboyant competition from his grandson Chicken George, a slick gamecock trainer who earned his freedom before Lincoln emancipated the rest of the family. Characters have been added and necessarily the conversations are fabricated; for convenience the early generations always have ties to the Massa's house, enabling them to overhear major events that provide a historical framework. Haley verified the genealogy and bare facts using government records; the search in Africa was more unconventional, taking him to his family's groit who recited the complete Kinte history, specifying Kunta who disappeared while gathering wood "in the year the King's soldiers came." The groit's story corroborated the family story, and the listening villagers shared the significance of the discovery: they had Haley embrace their babies - the laying on of hands. Roots has the richness of a 19th-century family novel and the added draw of personal revelation - a remarkable achievement. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Alex Haley

Alex Haley taught himself to write during a twenty-year stint in the US Coast Guard. He became its first Chief Journalist, a position he held until he retired in 1959 to become a magazine writer and interviewer. His first book was The Autobiography of Malcolm X, after which he spent twelve years researching and writing Roots, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alex Haley died in Seattle, Washington in 1992.

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