ROOTS: The Saga of an American Family



One of the most groundbreaking books of the 20th century. It's frank depiction of slavery launched difficult conversations about race. It also inspired thousands to explore their own family histories.

Author: Alex Haley (1921 - 1992) Year of Publication: 1976 Description: The story of a young African slave named Kunta Kinte and his descendants in America. The novel follows key descendants through four generations until the birth of the author, Alex Haley.

Memorable Quote:

“Carrying little Kunta in his strong arms, he walked to the edge of the village, lifted his baby up with his face to the heavens, and said softly, “Fend kiling dorong leh warrata ka iteh tee.” (Behold—the only thing greater than yourself.)”

Comment: As a novel, which has been classified as both fiction and non-fiction, Roots, is a gripping account of the horror of slavery and of the progress of time. It dramatizes factual events with an emotional resonance that haunts the reader long after closing the book. The television miniseries version which first aired in January 1977, received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won 9. It gripped audiences around the world and broke viewing records, some of which still hold to this day. Author Alex Haley grew up with stories about his family's history. His grandmother told him of an ancestor named Kunta Kinte, who landed in "'Naplis" and was given the slave name Toby. The old African called a guitar a ko, and a river the Kamby Bolongo. Based on these few bits of information, Haley began to trace his lineage back to its origins in Africa, a process that would consume twelve years of his life. For me, one of the most startling sections of the novel comes on page 662 of the hardback version. We have experienced unspeakable suffering along with moments of joy and the heartbreak of four generations, when a six-week-old baby is born in 1921, nearly two centuries after the birth of Kunta Kinte. The newborn baby, with a 'round brown face' is presented to his grandparents. “The baby boy, six weeks old, was me.”

Amazon Link: Kindle, Audiobook, Hardcover, Paperback Best Seller Ranking: #1, NY Times Best Seller List Critical acclaim: “Roots is crammed with raw violence and makes valid demands on the tear ducts of the dourest reader.” Russell Warren Howe

Most memorable character: Kunta Kinte Number of reviews on Goodreads: 140,240 (Average rating: 4.4)