A little daring, a bit nervous but most certainly looking forward to the discussion of Roots by Alex Haley, Chapters 1-20 with Melanie @ Grab the Lapels. If you have read the book before and would like to leave some spoiler free comments for us, I’d certainly appreciate that. Since this is our first time reading the book I don’t want to us to discover something before we get a chance to read it.
Did you find it hard to stop or are you ready to read full speed ahead? I think with a book like this, as much as we might be tempted to, a paced approach will allow us to get the most out of each discussion. Feel free to answer any of the questions, I just marked a few things that stood out to me to generate some conversation.
The book begins in 1750 with the birth of Omoro and Binta Kinte’s first son, Kunta, named after his honored grandfather who is thought to have saved the village of Juffure from a famine. We get a sense of the Mandinka people and traditions while we watch young Kunta grow up.
Names are important from which a sense of pride and purpose are derived. How does the naming ceremony and Omoro’s declaration of his son’s name set the tone of the story?
Tradition and culture are essential in this book, especially as Haley explores his family origins. Omoro doesn’t take another wife while Binta nurses Kunta although it’s custom for Moslem husband’s (as mentioned in the book). Why do you think Omoro does not?
Women worked hard and didn’t receive any help with rice harvesting but women are to help the men pick cotton. They carry, birth and nurse children (no modern medicine) all without complaint or praise. Discuss the Mandinka women of then with the modern woman of today. Do you note any similarities or differences?
Griots, or story tellers, are another important aspect of Mandinka tradition. What important lessons has Kunta learned to this point? How does what he learn from his father, Toumani, and Nyo Boto affect him?
Here are a few:
“So the crocodile was right. It is the way of the world for goodness is often repaid with badness.”
“The more blackness a woman has, the more beautiful she is. Someday you will understand.”
“Even a worse danger than lions and panthers were toubob and their black slatee helpers…”
“He [Kunta] never told them why he asked them both so many questions, but it seemed as if they knew. In fact, they seemed to act as if they had begun to regard Kunta as an older person, since he had taken on more responsibility with his little brother.”
“What are slaves? Why are some people slaves and others not?”
“The things I’m going to tell you now, you must hear with more than your ears—for not to do what I say can mean your being stolen away forever!”
Finally, as Kunta and his father leave their village to help his uncles setup their new village, Kunta’s manhood training begins. What are some of the things Kunta learns on this journey? Specifically, when they reach the abandoned village of older men.