Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Slow Roots

I'm taking a bit longer on this book than I should.

It's been 3 weeks since I began my journey and I'm only 60 pages in. But what a journey it has been. Not in the book, but in the impact that the book has today. But let me explain. When I first told people I was going to read this book I got mixed responses. Some people were excited, some people didn't care, and several people told me that Alex Haley lied in his book.

The last response I thought was incredibly stupid, after all the book is a work of fiction - historical fiction but fiction nonetheless. Now I did do some research, and I am aware that the man plagiarized. But come on, its not like he's a qualified historian who plagiarized from several books, and there have been one or two well known ones who've done this. He admitted he plagiarized the bits about Africa so lets just move on with it.

But that's not really the problem I've been having with the book. For example, last week a coworker saw that I was toting Roots around with me when I went to switch shifts with him. (I say toting because not much reading is being done.) His response was to sneer and say, "Oh, you're reading Roots. Historical fiction." Which was a ridiculous response because this particular co-worker was carting a young adult fantasy romance novel - which I happen to know is in the Twilight style. Besides I've seen him toting around historical fiction himself. Which means, I thought later that evening, that he is not sneering at Roots because it is Historical Fiction. No, he is sneering at it because it is written by an African American writer.

I've never known this coworker to be obviously racist, but towards this book he clearly is. Which brings me to the topic of what the book is about. Firstly, the book is about an African family - the Kinte's and specifically the journey of Kunta Kinte's line to the Americas through the process of slavery. White guilt, which is ridiculous but does exist, leads whites to feel like they themselves are responsible for the actions of their ancestors towards other people. Surprisingly this is mainly seen in America dealing with slavery. I certainly don't see any evidence of German guilt concerning their actions in World War II. Or French and English guilt for owning slaves. I suspect this has little to do with the actual guilt of owning slaves than with the continued treatment of a group of people long after slavery ended. Excellent blog on a similar subject here. But I have sidetracked.

This book must have made quite the splash when it was published let alone the splash it still makes today. If I needed any proof that racism was still alive, the book would have proved it. I wasn't surprised to have one of my friends tell me that the book was worthless since the author lied. I've already observed her repeated racial prejudice. But to have a coworker that I respected act like that, I'm disappointed. Although, after his comment, it makes me more determined to read the book all the way through.