Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Review: Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley

Roots: The Saga of an American Family
When I was a child, before DVRs and Tivo and even video cassette recorders, the first big TV event I remember was the ABC miniseries "Roots" based on Alex Haley's book of the same title. I have this memory (or imagination) of people looking at their watches and saying, "I know what you are telling me is important, but I gotta get home to watch the next episode of Roots." I thought I had watched it, but I had forgotten everything except Kunta Kinte's capture and somebody saying, "Lizzie, Lizzie." I was fortunate to acquire a minimally-scratched used recording of Avery Brooks's abridged narration of the 30th anniversary edition, which included an illuminating forward by Michael Eric Dyson.

Having read Alex Haley's first breakthrough book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Marable Manning's biography of Malcolm X, in which Haley plays a prominent role, I felt like I heard the Nation of Islam's influence, especially in Haley's description of Kunta Kinte's village in The Gambia and his rejection of the descendants of African slaves whom he encountered.

So much has been written about this book. I strongly encourage readers of this blog to read or listen to a copy or at least watch the miniseries.