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Roots Hardcover – August 17, 1976

4.7 out of 5 stars 417 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's hard to believe that it has been 30 years since Alex Haley's groundbreaking historical novel (based on his own family's history) was first published and became a worldwide phenomenon. Millions have read the story of the young African boy named Kunte Kinte, who in the late 1700s was kidnapped from his homeland and brought to the United States as a slave. Haley follows Kunte Kinte's family line over the next seven generations, creating a moving historical novel spanning 200 years. Avery Brooks proves to be the perfect choice to bring Haley's devastatingly powerful piece of American literature to audio. Brooks's rich, deep baritone brings a deliberate, dignified, at times almost reverential interpretation to his reading, but never so reserved as to forget that at its heart this is a story about people and family. His multiple characterizations manage, with a smooth and accomplished ease, to capture the true essence of each individual in the book. Michael Eric Dyson offers an informative introduction to Haley's book, but it is Brooks's performance that brings the author's words and history to life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: "Roots - The Saga of an American Family"
  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (September 17, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385037872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385037877
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (417 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In 688 pages, Alex Haley has captured in his history of one family, the history of an entire race of people whose names and identities were stolen from them. It's hard to say if this book is fiction, history or biography, since it reads so much like all three. Haley found sizeable gaps in his efforts to trace his family roots, and of necessity had to fill in the blanks from his own imagination, but it reads so convincingly that none of the fictionalized parts detract from the overall story. Probably millions of American blacks, I among them, have wondered where we came from and tried to trace our family lines, only to inevitably run up against a brick wall. (I managed to trace my own family reliably back to my great-great-great-grandmother, who arrived here at the end of the 18th century on a slave ship, but I'll never know her tribe or her nationality.) Haley begins his story fittingly in a small African village, where a 17 year old boy named Kunta Kinte is abducted by slave traders after venturing out of his village alone. His harrowing voyage to America is told in some 50 of the most gut-wrenching pages ever written. It's been reliably estimated that the death rate on the slave ships was between 35 and 40%; translated into numbers, that means that besides the 14 million Africans who were dragged, more dead than alive, onto the shores of the Americas, another 11 million died en route. Sold into slavery to a Virginia planter, Kunta lives out his life in bondage, struggling to hold onto the few remnant of his African identity.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Roots is one of the best books I've ever read, but after reading this newly released edition, I'd recommend readers find an older copy. The first section is riddled with typos and grammatical errors and so is the last section, obviously the book was edited by more than one editor because the rest of the book is perfect.

It's a disgrace that such a great book was allowed to be reprinted in such a sloppy fashion. Readers, shop around for a copy from the '70's if you want to enjoy this book as it deserves to be.
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Format: Hardcover
I am surprised that I have not read this book sooner ~~ considering how much I love biography/family histories. This is one book that will definitely go on my top 50 books.
Alex Haley writes of his seven generations of family life ~~ beginning with "The African" ~ Kunta Kinte ~ who was abducted from his village in The Gambia and ending with a brief biography of himself. From a proud African captured and forced to become a slave to freedmen and farmers, business owners and the women who prayed for the families while keeping the stories alive ... this is one book to cherish.
You struggle with Kinte's disappointments, fears, sorrow, bitterness and joy as he watches his freedom disappears into slavery. You begin to understand his anguish at losing his family, self-respect, pride and honor. You begin to understand the stoicness behind each slave's demeanor as he or she serve their masters/mistresses and their secret longings for a home they can call theirs or even live their lives without fear of being sold off to another family plantation. And you begin to understand their relief when the Civil War ended.
I have to confess, Haley's family are among the fortunate ~~ they managed to stay together through two slave-holding families ~~ though I don't understand how the Murray family can say slavery is ok. They may be more lenient than other slaveholding families ~~ but it is still wrong to hold another human being against their will simply because of their skin color.
Haley demonstrates how the intelligence of his family helped them survive the years during slavery, after Civil War and during the Reconstruction period.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There really isn't much one needs to say in the way of a description: by now practically everyone over the age of thirty is at least familiar with the existence of Alex Haley's massive novelization of the story of his family, from the birth of "the African" Kinte right up to the publication of the book, spanning numerous generations and containing perhaps the most stomach-churningly graphic depiction of the conditions aboard a slave ship ever published.

There has been a certain amount of controversy surrounding the veracity of this book, consisting mostly of two charges of plagiarism that each resulted in lawsuits. Haley settled one of the lawsuits and the other one was dismissed for lack of evidence. I have not been able to discern what parts of Haley's book were called into question, but Haley always maintained that his depiction of his own lineage and family tree at least were as accurate as hearsay and hand-me-down family oral histories can conceivably be.

And in the end the plagiarism charges make little difference to the fact that this is a massive work with a massive impact on American culture. It is probably as well to note that ROOTS was a novelized history from the get-go and probably should have been published as such in its original form. It does not read like a genuine history would: no one can write dialogue that has not been recorded somewhere, so in this particular literary form certain liberties are taken for granted.

At any rate, whatever parts may have come from an outside source, ROOTS is still an accurate and horrifying look at the gory details of the slave trade and a monument to the survival of one family through its generations over the course of more than two hundred years, and should be required reading in American history classes across the country.
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