Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roots Read-Along Part I

Come join the read-along so we can all help
each other get the most out of this American

I'm happy to be participating in this Roots read-along for many reasons: I respect blogger Laura over at Booksnob and I'm interested to see what action(s) we'll all take in response to this "Saga of an American Family".  The book's place in history is undeniable, so it's perfectly appropriate that I refresh my acquaintance with its take on Gambian and African American history as I prepare to teach a World Literature class to primarily American 10th graders.

Unfortunately, despite all these compelling reasons to read it, this book's been a tough slog so far, more social anthropology text in narrative form than an actual story told to entertain, inform, and engage.

Yes, the first 148 pages or so do provide us with many details of the customs and tribal structures and rituals of the Mandinka tribe of The Gambia in the mid 1700's.  And some descriptions of the terrain and climate afford readers an occasional (somewhat vague) sensory glimpse of the flora and fauna and seasonal patterns.  But events in the first 32 chapters as young Kunta Kinte, eldest of four brothers, grows up into his early teens seem somewhat transparent fronts for conveying Haley's anthropological research.

And I'm somehow suspecting that I've read this all before, now that I'm about 1/4 of the way through.  I know I wasn't allowed to watch the TV mini-series because it was on too late at night and contained too much violence, as I recall, yet it all seems familiar.  Maybe that's why this book hasn't wowed me so far: The second time around, however far from the first, just can't seem to charm.

But events are escalating in chapters 33 and 34:  In the latest two chapters, Kunta's just been abducted by the toubobs (white slave traders), beaten severely and repeatedly, and thrown into the hold of the ship that will carry him to America, and these events have certainly upped the violent action and graphic physical details, so perhaps this horrific turn of events for Kunta will kick-start the story itself after the 148 pages of exposition. 

I'm off to read a bit more about the controversies surrounding this book, and hopeful that the rest of the story will pick up as well.


1 comment:

Sherrie said...

I've enjoyed re-reading this book. I also saw the t.v. series. Lots of the first chapters were missing from the t.v. series. Have a great day!

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