Author: Alex Haley
Reading Dates: 30 Apr 2014 - 24 Aug 2014
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
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.
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
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.