After an almost year long hiatus, I am here to discuss Roots with you for the fourth and final time. In case you were wondering, I am still writing my thesis. But in an attempt to avoid writing, said Thesis, I managed to consume Roots. Actually a little too fast to please me in the avoiding Thesis department. But this book was so good!
Let me just say that I learned so much from this book, not just about humanity but about so many things. Like did you know that President Polk, actually my favorite president, died just a few weeks after leaving office because he had Cholera? I always thought he just served one term for fun, I didn't know he never had a chance to serve a second! And this is something that I learned with the slaves through the grapevine of information presented in the book.
The last time I wrote a post I was still following Kunta Kinte's path as a slave. By the time I got to his daughter Kizzy and her progeny, I couldn't put the book down. I read over 500 pages in 3 days. Despite the slow beginning, which really can we blame the guy that Haley reportedly plagiarized, the book was excellently written. What Haley accomplishes is a glimpse into the past as it must have been experienced by these slaves. And while he may not be completely historically accurate, he manages to give readers insight into the mind frame of the men and women who lived through slavery.
You may remember from my last post, but then its been a little under a year so you may not, that there was a great deal of controversy involving this book. Many people believe it isn't worth reading because of the controversy over Alex Haley plagiarizing this book. In fact when I told people I wanted to read the book, only one or two people were supportive. Most people questioned my decision to read it, and derided me. Yet, it was a book that my Great Grandfather owned and that he must have read.
After reading it, I got it. I understood why people didn't want to read the book. Personally I think that those people must have read it wrong. Instead of reading Roots as a glimpse into the mindset of the slave experience, these people must have approached it with a sense of white guilt. It's no secret that slaves suffered. How could anyone who is bound, not free, not suffer to some degree. But the degrees of suffering were different or everyone, which is something that Haley pointed out in his book. Kizzy's grandson Tom has a much different experience than his great-grandfather Kunta does. And I realize as I'm writing this now that as a Portuguese-American whose parent's immigrated to this country, my Great Grandfather didn't need to feel a sense of white guilt. He didn't share in the history of that part of the nation because his family came over long after slavery in the 1920s.
So I wonder if instead he shared some of what I felt when I read the book. A sense of wonder that a family was orally able to preserve their lineage in a time when they could have been separated by anything. Certainly my own knowledge of my legacy is extensive, but its not enriched by the stories that Haley must have been told by his own grandmother which enabled him to travel all the way to Africa to find his family's origin.
So at the end of this, I would argue that everyone should really read this book. Roots is worth the read and I promise you, you will laugh and cry with the characters. And at the end you may come away with a shifted world view. Which is, ultimately I think, what Haley desires out of his readers. Not to come away with a sense of guilt but to come away enriched with an understanding of what his family experienced as slaves. And if you're not sure as to his goals, read the last chapter first where he explains how he started on the whole trail that led to the book. You may think twice and find it worth the read too.
Since it is time for something that is not 500 pages or more, the next book I'll be reading will be Ramona.
See you later fellow readers!