Book Review: Alex Haley's winner of the 1977 Special Pulitzer Prize, Roots
I may have to go back and read a Kenneth Roberts book evidently.
See, though Roots is the first single novel to receive a “Special Pulitzer,” 20 years before Alex Haley took his prize in 1977, Kenneth Roberts was awarded a “Special Pulitzer” for a body of historical novels that “have long contributed to the creation of greater interest in our early American history.” Sure, sure, there were other Special Pulitzers before and after Kenneth Roberts, but most of them went to newspapermen or newspapers or works of history and the like and since I’m in the business of reading Pulitzer novels and not newspapers or histories or entire bodies of work (I’m saving that for the Nobels when I read them) I haven’t had to worry too much about “Special Pulitzers” until now. That said, I really do feel like my journey won’t be complete until I read at least one Kenneth Roberts novel, but maybe that can be a very good bridge over to the Nobels …
More to the point, Roots is magnificent. Yes, yes there has been controversy over some of the “factual” details of the story, but the real point is that this story happened, in whole, in part, in a variety of pieces to millions of people over the course of two or three centuries. As we read the novel, as we consider Haley’s use of the term “faction,” and as we look at our lives today, we should keep that in mind.
Roots is quite a long book, and you probably know how I feel about that, but I can say with confidence, even if you can’t commit to the whole 899 pages you should definitely try to get through the first 83 chapters comprising the story arc of Kunta Kinte. I think you’ll find it well-written enough to be absolutely worth your time. And now for that Kenneth Roberts novel. Anyone got a suggestion?