Monday, 27 August 2012

Roots - Alex Haley

Date of Reading: 15/11/07
Author: Alex Haley
Sub title: The Saga of an American Family
Publisher: Picador
Place: London
Year: 1979

          If I hadn't read this book formerly, I would have thought that life of Blacks was much like that of in 'Gone with the Wind' -- peaceful, content and happy. Black Arts Movement of 1960's has repeatedly urged its followers to reclaim their past and warns against their merge with the dominant White culture. It all seems ages ago now but, to have some traditions and beliefs of one's own is always fascinating, this almost makes our identity and washes down the feeling that we are alone.
         So Haley here carefully notes down the story of his family through generations in America, beginning with his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte. Unlike other biographical fiction this one is never boring ( too big perhaps, but things get better and better once the pages turn), and of course, stories of survival are always good to hear. Nothing is better to generate some hope.
         Kunta Kinte was born on the spring of 1750 in the village of Juffure, at the coast of Gambia, West Africa as the first child of Omoro and Binta Kinte. He has three brothers -- Lamin, Suwadu and Madi. When he was about 17 rains (years), Kunta is captured by the toubobs (White men), transported to America and is sold to John Waller. Four times he tries to escape but in vain. On the fourth attempt his foot is chopped off by two white professional slave catchers. This provokes John's brother William so much that he takes Kunta and assigns him in the vegetable garden at Virginia.
         Kunta finds that other Blacks in America are born in their itself and these brownish ones have never known Africa. He keeps his distance at first but later marries Bell, the cook there. A daughter is born called Kizzy. Kunta (or Toby as he is called now) is decided that his family won't be purged in ignorance and so teaches his family history to Kizzy.

Alex Haley

         When Kizzy helps her boy friend to escape she is sold to Tom Lea who owns a plantation in North Carolina. She is brutally raped by her new master and her son George is born. As per the instructions of her father whom she is not to be seen again, Kizzy passes their family story to her son. George becomes an expert in training game cocks which earns him the nick name 'Chicken George'. He marries Matilda and they have eight children. With each new child's birth George would gather his family within their slave cabin telling them afresh about their African great grandfather.
         When George was sent to England as a result of his master's failure in a bet, his family is sold to a Massa Murray. His fourth son Tom was a blacksmith and he marries Irene and they have eight children too. With each new birth Tom continued his father's tradition. Youngest of them was Cynthia, who was two years old when they are set free by President Lincoln. Later she marries Will Palmer and their daughter Bertha weds Simon Haley and our author is born. Alex also hears the story from his grandma which his mother has stopped believing. In his later life he goes to Juffure to confirm the tales and by then six generations has passed after Kunta. This book is dedicated to his country.

Haley's boyhood home and memorial in Henning
Attribution: Thomas R. Machnitzki

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Great review about Roots. I am going to be publishing a book about Roots' author, Alex Haley, January 2014. Would you be interested in reviewing it? My email is


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