Audie Award Winner, Non-fiction, 2008
It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree.
When Alex was a boy growing up in Tennessee, his grandmother used to tell him stories about their family, stories that went way back to a man she called the African who was taken aboard a slave ship bound for Colonial America.
As an adult, Alex spent 12 years searching for documentation that might authenticate what his grandmother had told him. In an astonishing feat of genealogical detective work, he discovered the name of the "African" - Kunta Kinte - as well as the exact location of the village in West Africa from where he was abducted in 1767.
Roots is based on the facts of his ancestry, and the six generations of people - slaves and freedmen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, teacher, and one acclaimed author - descended from Kunta Kinte.
©1974 Alex Haley. Renewed 2004 by Myran Haley, Cynthia Haley, Lydia Haley, and William Haley; (P)2007 BBC Audiobooks America
"Being the consummate actor, [narrator Avery] Brooks has immersed himself into the role of narrator. In fact, it is difficult to describe what Avery Brooks does in this audiobook. He neither narrates nor performs, rather, he conjures. He brings the plethora of characters to life as memory, as history, as the pawns of diaspora. His narration begins in reverential tones as an homage to a literary masterwork, yet he ends it as a roar against racism." (AudioFile)
I enjoyed this book like I have not enjoyed one in many years (and I am always reading something).
The story is very well written, with many convincing details that make it feel true on a very basic level. The characters come to life with all of their sides and you can't help but feel that they really existed. Their interactions were captured in very subtle psychological nuances, much more than what I usually see in other fiction.
The horror of slavery comes to life in a really new way. We all know of slavery, but this books makes you feel the reality of it in a completely new way. It changes the way you see the world around you (can't think of a better compliment to a book).
I like how it manages to convey the important of heritage in a way I had not seen before.
The author talks about himself at the end, and his experience in writing the book. It's a very touching part. He talks about going back to Africa and meeting what is probably his ancestor's village, and of even laying in a dark hold of a ship crossing the Atlantic for many days, just to get an approximation of what the crossing must have felt like.
Avery Books narration is amazing. Besides his beautiful voice, the narration is strong and full of personality and yet it does not get in the way like so many audiobook narrations do. He makes several different voices with different accents, but they don't feel like caricatures like it happens so often with other audiobooks. The characters speak all in different ways, not only to sound different from each other, but in a way that really suits their personality. I think this narration adds a whole extra level of creative work on top of the novel, and improves it tremendously.
I came to this as an adult (not required reading in Canada). There is (apparently some controversy about the veracity of the tale). It still qualifies as an excellent historical epic and can be paired with Gone With the Wind or Uncle Tom's Cabin.
I liked the humanization of an African man before he was stolen into slavery. I disliked the very simple writing style.
Not really. With all the fantastic literature out there about the roots of slavery, it's hard to recommend something that reads at a 4th grade reading level.
I am a saver, and I try to capture everything. I’ve got boxes and boxes of old letters and my notes from college. (Have fun at my estate sale, everyone! The treasure you’ve been waiting for!) I bought an extra hard drive to save all of our pictures. I’ve started digitizing all my old home movies. And I like to save TV shows, too. It’s funny for me to think that my kids have always lived when it’s possible to record what’s on TV. I still have tapes from their childhood in a drawer somewhere with old shows on them sitting next to VCR to play them (More treasures!). These days changes in technology have made it so easy to record TV—click a single button on your phone(!) to record a show—that you can imagine why the To Watch list on my DVR is perpetually growing.
But there was a time, young friends (and all my old friends here can attest to it), when the only way to see a program was to be sitting in front of your TV when one of the three networks played it the one time they would ever play it. If you missed it, you missed it. And there wasn’t a Wikipedia or an IMDB to go to the next day to read the episode recap. If you wanted to see a show, you scheduled your life around it.
So it was in the summer of 1977 when Roots, the mini-series aired. You knew it was an event because everyone I knew—without exception—made certain they were in front of their TV while it was on. Meetings got rescheduled and lessons postponed so we could all watch.
It was that big of a deal.
The times probably had something to do with it. I was sixteen that year. I was a baby when the Civil Rights marches were happening and only a few years older during the horrors of 1968. Growing up in an all-white town, those events weren’t something that really seemed to affect me that much. We were a patriotic crowd. During the bi-centennial the year before we ate from bi-centennial plates with bi-centennial forks that we bought with our bi-centennial quarters. America was the grandest place on earth! Slavery was a word I had learned in school, but it was a word I knew in order to pass a history test, nothing I had really thought about deeply.
Roots was the first time the truths of slavery became real to me—the fetid horror of the slave ships, the ever-present brutality, the rending of families. I was living in the era of women’s liberation when the mantra we girls were cutting our milk teeth on was that we could be anything we wanted to be, and that message was brought into stark contrast by the total lack of control a slave had over her life and her body was stunning.
The last several years I’ve been in a race to read as many books as I can in 365 days, but this year I decided was going to be the year of the long books. I wanted to read epics that I had skipped previously because they simply would take too long to read. I had purchased Roots from Audible.com much earlier, but now it was time to pull it off the virtual shelf and give it a listen.
Simply put, Roots is a great audiobook. Tremendous story by a really terrific narrator. His voices were so right for each of the characters that sometimes I felt like I was listening to a play instead of a book. I still had flashes of the story from nearly 40 years before rolling around my head and I was surprised at how much I did remember—Kunta’s horrific sail across the Atlantic (and Ed Asner’s bad wig), Kizzy’s separation from her family, and of course Chicken George, but reading the book brought new details and insights that I had never known or forgotten, especially the details of Kunta’s life in Africa before he was stolen away.
One of the parts I do remember was at the end when Alex Haley went to Africa. I wondered how it would be handled in the book and his whole explanation of how he fit into the story and how he had come to write the story was any genealogist’s dream—true satisfaction with a healthy dose of humility as you realize all those stories—real lives and heartaches—that had come before you.
If you want to listen to a good book that will entertain you and make you think all at the same time, download Roots and start listening. You won’t be disappointed.
He pronounces the African words beautifully and sounded characteristically 17-19th century African American when appropriate. Really draws you into the variations between white and black characters and was very enjoyable to listen to.
wonderful story. powerful you will feel the history moving as the story unfolds. i been finding myself look on the google to see if i can find pic of the ppl in the book.
I enjoyed listening to this book. It made me cry, and understand more about the way things were in the days of slavery. Great book, even 30 years later, great classic! A must read for everyone!
Started audiobooks years ago. Now instead of pop music on my ride to work or walk around the neighborhood I get enriched and smarter.
Summing up a 30 hour book in 3 words: comprehensive, classic, epic.
Uncle Tom's Cabin. Same setting, but more background and complete.
Kunta. The opening chapters set up a singular character who sets the tone of the story to come.
Haley's trip to Africa to hear the confirmation and retelling of the tale that his family has passed down in its own line. This bring the story fully into reality and makes one accept the gravity of what he has heard.
Sure it's long, but it does not slow down or linger. Don't rely on the TV version to know the whole story.
Storky46--Avid reader/listener. Love my old Kindle so much, I cannot bring myself to buy a new Fire.
I had never read the book in print, but we watched the mini-series on television in the 70's. The audible book is an absolutely wonderful way to get the story. The reader is spot on with his language skills, and it was entertaining, moving, and a tear-jerker in many places.
I have never heard another book by Mr. Brooks, but I will indeed look for more!
Yes, the trip to America aboard the slave ship both intrigued me and disgusted me, making me so sad that people had been treated so badly during those dark times in our country's history. Another place was when Tom Lee and Chicken George lost so much to the British character in a rooster fight. It made me sad to hear that they lost everything they had, and then Chicken George had to go live in England away from his family to pay off Tom Lee's debt.
Both the writing and the narration of this book made it come alive--full of colorful characters and interesting history of one man's family and how he came to realize he could actually go back to Africa and discover the roots of it.
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