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Roots: The Saga of an American Family

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  145,135 ratings  ·  3,435 reviews
When he was a boy in Henning, Tennessee, Alex Haley's grandmother used to tell him stories about their family—stories that went back to her grandparents, and their grandparents, down through the generations all the way to a man she called "the African." She said he had lived across the ocean near what he called the "Kamby Bolongo" and had been out in the forest one day cho ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 729 pages
Published October 1st 1977 by Dell Publishing Company (first published August 17th 1976)
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Nandakishore Varma
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this book long, long ago: came across it while going through a book list here on Goodreads, and suddenly felt the urge to post a review.

Dear Kunta Kinte,

We are separated by time, space and culture. Throughout your largely tragic life, you would never have imagined that your story would ever be written, let alone read by a bookish teenager in far-away India, for whom slavery till that day was only a fact learned from school textbooks, mucked up to pass hated history exams. However, Mr. Kin
Ahmad Sharabiani
Roots: The Saga of an American Family = Roots, Alex Haley
Roots: The Saga of an American Family is a novel written by Alex Haley and first published in 1976. Roots tells the story of Kunta Kinte—a young man taken from the Gambia when he was seventeen and sold as a slave—and seven generations of his descendants in the United States. Kunta, a Mandinka living by the River Gambia, has a difficult but free childhood in his village, Juffure. His village subsists on farming, and sometimes they lack eno
This book was astonishing to me - particularly the narrative of Kunta Kinte's life. This is why I read! What an amazing description of African culture and the rights of manhood. Then, the horrible violation of slavery and the cross-cultural experience of an African joining slaves who were predominately born in the United States. Sounds silly, but though I've read many books on slavery, none have dealt with the differences among slaves themselves and how growing up as a slave shaped how African A ...more
I remember watching the mini series of this book on TV around the same time we were studying about early American history in school. I finally got my hands on this book a few years back when a friend lent it to me and since she was clearing her bookshelf I was more than happy to keep the copy...I still have it! A gripping and gritting portrayal of the story of a tribal prince, Kunta Kinte, who is snatched from his homeland of Africa and thrown into a nightmare of slavery in America and how not o ...more
Magnificent. The epic chronicle of a family through many generations of cruelty, hardship and suffering. But it's much more than that really; it's the history of slavery in America. What happened to the characters in this book happened to millions of others and it's a story that needed to be told and Alex Haley did a masterful job of telling it. Roots should be required reading in high schools because all of us, regardless of age, race, or gender should understand this history. You can't tell th ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
I was only 8 when Roots came out and my family being of the average, racist variety in Florida at the time, we did not watch it on TV in 1977. In the meantime, I did a lot of work to unroot that racism I was brought up with and read widely: Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Toni Cade Bambara, Zora Neale Hurston, Malcolm X, Ralph Ellison, etc. but until now, some 43 years later, I read Roots by Alex Haley. It was a moving experience, particularly the middle passage of Kunta Kinta from La Gambia to 'Na ...more
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, favorites
I honestly can't believe how much I enjoyed this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for about half a year now and I've been wanting to read it as soon as I got it. I always just started another book though and always said "next time."

I finally picked it up 6 days ago and finished it about 10 minutes ago.

The beginning was wonderful. I was so enthralled with Africa and Kunta Kinte and his family and the whole works. The way they lived, the culture, the traditions, it was like reading of another
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't know why I've never read this book before now. It's excellent. Yes, as a Midwestern, middle-aged white person, the repeated use of the N-word was jarring, but definitely necessary to the story. It got a point across that I don't think would have been properly conveyed any other way. I'm going to re-watch the miniseries soon. It came out when I was in grade school, so I don't remember it well. But I highly recommend the book.
Susan's Reviews
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved both the book and movie versions of this powerful, historical saga: I will never forget the indomitable Kunta Kinte. This book changed my very sheltered teenage world view. Decades later, I am now reading Esi Edugyan's Washington Black, and once again I am brought face to face with humanity's truly awful dark side. I have to read these gut-wrenching novels in bits and pieces, because my poor aging heart can no longer take so much horror in one long sitting.
With the perspective of time an
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I am at least a fifth generation genealogist. I was ten when this book was first published and made into a miniseries. But, I was allowed to stay up that entire week of January 23 – January 30, 1977 to watch it in its entirety. I thought the cast did an excellent job. To this day, I still believe that the book was much better than the movie. But, as Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. once pointed out, "Most of us feel it's highly unlikely that Alex actually found the village whence his ancestors sprang. ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I opened the cover of this book with eagerness and excitement. In fact, I informed my family I was finally reading Roots and I would be out of commission for the week!

I was then greeted by 192 pages of some of the dullest prose I have ever encountered.

Dull and monotonous writing. Zero character development. The exotic locale of Africa reduced to sand and thorns, with a few cardboard cut-outs of Africans standing around.

Then, on page 192 (out of 900), conflict finally creates the true beginning
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
African-American writer Haley based this book on the oral stories of his family history, handed down to him as a child by his grandmother, who was part of a chain of family memory-keepers going back to the 18th century, to (and even before) the arrival of their ancestor Kunta Kinte in this country as a kidnapped slave. As an adult, Haley painstakingly researched the historical written records to confirm and amplify these stories, even traveling to West Africa, where a griot --a keeper of tribal ...more
I appreciate the author's research of his own roots and the overall message this book has. The problem I had with it was that the writing style was uninteresting. It wasn't bad but it made the characters too two-dimensional for me to enjoy the story overall. They were all empty and I couldn't cheer for them or feel for them. But I understand why the book is important to some and why it has the position it has, I just didn't notice the literary value it supposedly has. Plus the plagiarism accusat ...more
Shirley Revill
I read this book some time ago and I also watched the television series.
One of those books that really makes you think about the lives that some people endured.
This book and the television series had me in tears. Very well written and very highly recommended.
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Alex Haley's novel is more than just a piece of award-winning literature, but a glimpse into the soul of America's lifeblood, even though it touches on areas that many would likely wish to see forgotten. In the opening portion of the novel, Haley introduces the reader to the small villages of Gambia, where one Kunta Kinte is born and raised. Kunta explores a life of simplicity but also relative complexity, as he grows up learning the ways of his people, always warned about the dangers of the whi ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Ultimate Reading List - History
The teenage self who first read this book would have given it five stars without hesitation. The conception is brilliant. I don't think there's a better way to really absorb history, and really inspire people to dig deeper, than what this purported to do. To really have you come face to face with history by telling the story of one family, especially in fictional narrative form, where people of the past can be brought vividly to mind as people who bled and sweated and struggled. And Alex Haley h ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-books
this is a perfect example of a book that would benefit from GR offering different rating criteria, rather than just one overall rating.

because of the cultural and historical significance of roots, it deserves 5-stars. but because i was really expecting much stronger writing and a smoother style - i mean, he's got 900 pages to work with here; it's not like there's a shortage of space - i feel like the book was only 2½ to 3-stars on the quality of writing.

i did very much enjoy the dialects haley
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: BBC TV Watchers

"Based on Alex Haley’s novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, whose 1977 TV adaptation remains one of the most-watched dramas in US TV history, this powerful story remains as relevant today as it was nearly forty years ago."source
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I think it significantly affected my reading of Roots having come to it with the knowledge that Haley had been accused of plagiarism by Harold Courlander "The African" and Margaret Walker Alexander "Jubilee". While nothing can undermine the horrors experienced by slaves during this period, there was some question in my mind about the integrity of the author and thus, his ability to accurately portray these truths, even within the framework of fiction.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny the s
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is probably the book that started my historical fiction fixation. I read this in my early teenage years along with the Clan of the Cavebear books, Gone With The Wind and the North and South series.

I love how it brings history to life. The characters are real and you can sympathize with their situations -- particularly Kunta Kinte's. It made the horrible practice of slavery real and how it dehumanizing it was. I think that reading it at a young age made me into a more compassionate person.
I read this book when it first came out, many years ago. It touched me deeply and I waited patiently for each episode of the t.v. program based on it to air. You cannot read this book, nor see the images, without becoming overwhelmed with emotion. It's one thing to read about what was done to people; it's another thing to see it played out in front of you. Even though it's acting, you will feel every tear that is shed, every whip that lands, every family that is separated....all of it and more t ...more
Horace Derwent
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
the tv series was one of the rarest tv series which were imported into china when i was small(fucking early 90's), and i ass-rimmedly loved it. i can now still remember that excrement and vomit filled blackbirder cabin

much more imprinted than the tub YIKES!scene of The Cormorant,,,...///囧
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Four:
A historical portrait of American slavery, recounting the journey of one family and their will to survive, endure and ultimately carry on their legacy despite enormous hardship.

Episode 1
Juffere, West Africa, 1767 - young, proud Kunta Kinte is being initiated as a Mandinka warrior and ready to start thinking about his future. But a feud with a rival family results in him being kidnapped and sold to English slave traders, who are in the business of transporting shiploads of enslaved
P.S. Winn
Jan 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read this amazing story, you have to grab it. The author not only found his own past but has shared it with readers in a remarkable way. You can't help but fall in love with the family and empathize with their plight. Some day I woiuld love to be able to look up my own ancestors and find the lives they came before and the legacy left behind, great job!
Colleen Fauchelle
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I did it. I finished this book at 2.30 am this morning and I miss all the characters all ready. I have seen both the mini series of Roots so I knew the story already. What I found the hardest bits to real was the slaves language so that took me ages to read.

For over 500 pages we get to grow with Kunta Kinte we hear him being born as his father Omoro pacing outside the hut. We are with Kunta as he is looked after the elderly woman while his parents work. As he gets older he gets more responsibil
I respect Haley's purpose in writing Roots: to offer his family's history as an example and surrogate for many black Americans whose African lineages have been forgotten because of "the fact that preponderantly the histories have been written by the winners." However, I had a great problem with how Roots was researched and written. Firstly, I'm perturbed by the controversy of plagiarism and inauthenticity surrounding Roots. I don't think you need to market something as "fact" for it to be import ...more
Dec 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history

This was one of the first books I ever read concerning the trans-Atlantic slave trade and American slavery, and I consider the work one of the greatest epics ever written. I certainly recommend reading the actual book instead of watching the television mini-series. The historical research conducted by Haley in composing this masterpiece is awe-inspiring. A definite literary selection long-marked as required reading for my daughters once they reach middle it should be read by all Amer
Linda Isakson
"Roots" is the supposed genealogical recounting of Alex Haley's African roots to his great-great-great grandfather, Kunta Kinte, a Mandinka tribesman who was captured and sold into slavery. The story follows Kunta through his upbringing in Gambia, capture, voyage across the sea, sale, attempted escapes, mutilation at the hands of slave capturers, marriage to slave housekeeper and the birth of his daughter Kizzy. The story then follows Kizzy's sale to another owner and the birth of her son, Georg ...more
Dec 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I know there has been controversy concerning this book, how much is true and how much fiction. And there has been a charge of plagiarism for one section, which Haley admitted. But the experience of reading this book is overwhelmingly powerful. Some of it is very hard to read emotionally, but it holds a connection with the reader. It is definitely 'not' a book about the horrors of slavery, at least in my opinion, although there are certainly horrors within it. It is, instead, a book about human b ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Minor correction 3 41 Oct 27, 2019 11:44AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Correction, add info 3 35 Oct 27, 2019 11:43AM  
African American History 3 28 Jul 01, 2018 12:34PM  
Play Book Tag: Roots - Alex Haley 5/5 6 32 Nov 17, 2017 02:12PM  
Will see... 2 7 Sep 15, 2017 09:56PM  
Name of a book I loved and read over and over years sgo 4 21 Sep 06, 2017 09:14AM  
FACTION NOVELS (n...: Roots 1 11 May 01, 2017 09:59AM  

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Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was an American writer. He is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family, and of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the latter of which he wrote in collaboration with Malcolm X.

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