Title: Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey
Author: Adam Henig
Published: 5th February 2014
This is an informative account of the period of time in Alex Haley’s life following the publication of roots and the TV series. Although it does not delve deep into the author’s motives (it is not a deep psychological portrait), it does a great job of reviewing existing sources and even on occasions adding new material from interviews. I was aware of some of the controversy surrounding ‘Roots’ but not of the evidence and details that unfolded. This is a must for people interested in Roots and Haley, and considering its length, it offers a good summary of the sources. I’d love to see and read more of the extensive sources the author explored to produce this work, as there seems to exist much untapped potential.
A well-written and compelling account of a fascinating work (however we might choose to define it) that changed people’s perception of African-American history and stories.
As an author, I also enjoyed the collection of blogs chartering the journey of Adam Henig to, first research, and finally self-publish the book. I hope more books will follow.
What the book is about: What happened to Alex Haley once his book ‘Roots’ and especially the TV series, hit the big time.
Book Highlights: I was aware of some of the controversy surrounding ‘Roots’ but was not aware of the details or the full extent of the impact it had on the fame of the author and the cause of genealogy and the popularity of African-American studies.
Challenges of the book: I personally found it a fascinating read, but I watched ‘Roots’ many years back and also read the book. Judging from other reviews it seems even people who were not aware of Roots enjoy the book, but it might be difficult to quite comprehend the impact it has for somebody totally unaware of it.
What do you get from it: A good summary, well-documented, of the life of Haley following Roots, exploring the fact versus fiction argument. I also enjoyed the compilation of blogs that offer a good insight into Henig’s research methods and his reasons for deciding to self-publish.
What I would have changed if anything: The book offers some snippets (gathered sometimes from writing, sometimes from interviews) of the man behind the book, but this is not a detailed biography and we only get a summary view of who Haley was prior to writing ‘Roots’. If I could have my wish I would have liked to have access to the direct sources (or more of it) as these are detailed and referred to. Greatly admiring Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X I would have loved to read something about its genesis as it’s only mentioned in passing (although I know that’s not what the book is about). One wonders also if it would have been possible to develop more of an insight into who Alex Haley really was, but maybe that’s a task beyond the scope of this book.
Who Would I recommend this book to?: People who know of Alex Haley’s work, who love (or not) ‘Roots’ and anybody interested in African-American studies and history.
Realistic Characterization: NA
Made Me Think: 4.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4.5/5
Overall Rating: 4/5
Olga Núñez Miret