Sunday, May 1, 2016

#Roots - The Read-Along Discussion Two

Late again. Sorry!

Let's weigh in on the second section, through Chapter 69. Are you having as hard of a time dealing with what's going on as I am?

The utter cruelty that human beings can exact on other human beings is almost too much to bear. The descriptions of the conditions on the slave ship are so horrible. That anyone could survive that is testament to the strength of the human spirit.

When the slave ship arrives in American and Kunta is bought by a slave owner, this is the beginning of Kunta's continuous attempts at escaping. No matter how many times he's caught, he still keeps escaping, until finally...and tragically...something is done to him that makes further escape attempts pretty much impossible. The true tragedy though is seeing this indomitable spirit finally crushed into the acceptance of slavery.

I was surprised that these events are taking place around the time of the Revolutionary War. For some reason, I thought this story occurred much later. So, this is taking place close to 100 years before the Civil War. This fact gave me perspective on just how long slavery went on in America...even long before the Revolutionary War.

We start to see Kunta making friends and settling into his life as a slave, but he still struggles with his identity, realizing his age, 34 years old, and just how long he has been gone from Africa. When he meets Boteng, another slave from Africa, the sense of connection spurs in him the desire to seek love and connection in his own life which is a major breakthrough for Kunta.

What do you think of it so far? Share your thoughts.



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  1. I know what you mean about this being difficult to read. It's hard to fathom the level of cruelty that the toubob inflicted on the Africans they captured. I think Haley does a great job of conveying Kunte's despair, but also his will to live and his need for freedom.

    I also think Haley did a good job of maturing Kunte's feelings towards his fellow slaves--his contempt for them softens as he learns their stories and comes to respect them as individuals.

    The only thing I don't really care for is how Haley incorporates in historical events--it seems a bit clumsy how he has characters like Bell narrate events she has heard about, like the Boston Massacre.

    I loved the part where Kunte was shocked to realize that he was forgetting his friends and family from Juffure, and made a point of forcing himself to remember names and faces and connections. After I read that, I personally said aloud the names of my ancestors back 6 generations (it helps that I've been worked on my genealogy for a couple of months now!).

    So glad I am reading this book. It's powerful and part of who we are as a nation.

    1. Alex Haley has done his job then, making our desire to remember stronger as well!

  2. I'm enjoying the rich cultural background in the book and the way Haley shows and not tells the cruelty of humans.

    And I agree with Jane. The one thing I didn't like about this section is the clumsy relation of historical events. First of all, it beaks the show-don't-tell rule - which Haley had been doing such a good job of following. I'm also curious whether slaves in the South would really care that much about some of the events described.

    Other than that, I really enjoyed this section.

  3. Even though the succeeding generations are certainly important--the reason for the book really--I still find Kunta Kinte's story the most memorable and poignant because he remembers a different life, a life of freedom in his home. You are right, Michelle, what a turning point for him nevertheless when he meets Boteng and accepts that he is still a living man, still needing to love and create a family to make their way after he is gone. That legacy will connect him with the opening scene of the book so perfectly.

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