Many years ago I picked up Roots and marveled at the size of the book. I knew it was supposed to be a great story, so I thought I would give it a try. I didn’t last a page.
Just recently I thought about it again as I was reading Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul — the one Chicken Soup book that I couldn’t get myself to part with at the library book auction donation last summer. The author Alex Haley came up a few times in the book and was lauded for his master storytelling and mesmerizing speeches, so I thought about giving Roots another try.
I knew I couldn’t handle the book, but I thought I might be able to handle a book on CD, especially if I just played it while I drove. I was excited when I found it on my library’s web-site, and I immediately put it on hold. When I picked the set up a few days later, I wasn’t surprised by the 22 CDs and 30 hours of reading. I knew it was a massive undertaking, but maybe I could at least get through some of it.
At first when I popped it in, I missed a lot. I’m not much of an auditory person, and I had very little knowledge of African history and culture. My restless mind tended to wander to my concerns of the day, and I had to keep redirecting it to the story.
But as time went on, I succumbed to the storyteller’s spell. I became very interested in the young Kinte’s story. Though my mind still wandered, I hoped I was catching most of the tale and began thinking that I might even listen to it again someday. I became fascinated by all of the foreshadowing in the book as the topic of slavery was introduced to Kinte and and then repeated over and over to the curious Kinte and his even more inquisitive younger brother; they learned more and more tidbits and tales from their father and the other villagers about the disappearances brought on by the strange white men with their many great canoes with the long poles and white sheets. * I wondered: Would Kinte be sold into slavery? Or have to sell himself during another severe famine? Be kidnapped, maybe? Then I became anxious, half for Kinte and half for myself, not wanting to be surprised by Kinte’s sudden uprooting from his village. I worried for Kinte — wondering with each of his little adventures if that day would be his last – and sometimes wanting him to be captured already, just to end the suspense.** (Don’t do it, Kinte, don’t go!)
And that is where I’ve left off, on CD #3 and at the beginning of one of Kinte’s more serious adventures, journeying with Kinte, a young boy of 8, as he makes a walking trip of “many moons” with his father — an unprecedented event for someone his age. I’m contemplating bringing the CD in from the car, so that I don’t have to wait to hear a little more . . .
*I would have loved to type in the names of Kinte’s brother and father and the particular term used for the mysterious white slave traders (I think it started with a “T”), but I’m going off of what I hear from the audio, and when I try googling it, I’m hit by some spoilers, and so I’m done with that. PLEASE don’t tell me anything. I realize the book has been around forever already, but hey, so, I’m a little behind. So what?
**(A quick peek at the back of the CD case summary, relieves some of my anxiety: some quick mental subtraction between the Kinte’s capture date and the beginning date of the story reveals that Kinte has more time yet . . .)