Monday, June 4, 2012
Now, let me give you a little background on my great-great aunt, Naomia. My aunt is the youngest of nine children and of these nine, the three youngest never married. So, 42 years ago these three decided to buy a house and live together. Fast forward 42 years and she's the only one left in this house with all three siblings' belongings. Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff and it was very difficult for her to decide what to take to her new one-bedroom apartment. But, we managed. And while there's a few forgotten items here and there that I know we'll have to get out of the house eventually, it's mostly over. My Aunt Naomia is enjoying her new digs and the sweet people around her. She's a tad shy, but it doesn't appear that another shy person lives in this community. While we were moving her in I can't tell you how many people stopped by to introduce themselves to her, it was so sweet!
Earlier in the week, we found some treasure troves while cleaning out old boxes and suitcases. I'll share a couple...below is a picture of my great grandparents. My great grandmother (the second born) is my Aunt Naomia's big sister and who I'm actually named after. And wowie, my great grandfather is quite a looker in this pic.
Another great find, a picture of my mom when she was 14...her hair (and definitely some wig) all fixed up. What's amazing is this, she says that she's only wearing eyeliner in this picture. How pretty is she?!
What's so serendipitous about all of this, you might say, is that I finished Roots last week. Roots was first published in 1976 and is the culmination of Alex Haley's twelve years of research regarding his family history. My mother-in-law, Donna, recommended that I read this...I'm sure you remember that half the books I seem to end up reading are always recommended by her!
The purpose of this book is to tell the story of Haley's family from African capture into slavery until emancipation. When Roots was first published, the reception was mostly positive with some controversies. Like many popular books, there were a couple lawsuits. But, for the most part, the book found favor and was even turned into a television mini-series in 1977. In fact, according to wikipedia, the final episode was the third most-watched telecast of all time by the Nielsen corporation.
What did I think of this book? Let me first say that there are many sections that are difficult to read, including the passage on the ship over to the United States, slave beatings and rape. Now, if you're prepared to read about these things...because they DID happen, though maybe not exactly in the ways that Haley writes...then, I think you'd appreciate this book. The book is labeled as fiction, simply because Haley needed to novelize the research he did. And there are even controversies and inaccuracies founded by other researchers into Haley's work. Regardless, I find the stories fascinating because they truly happened. Maybe every detail isn't accurate, maybe every story didn't happen exactly the way it's spelled out in the book, but the end result is all the same. Alex Haley came about, as well as many other African Americans in our society. And it's an ugly story to tell, but it needed to be told.
I would definitely say that I'm glad I read Roots and that I own a copy. But, will I be pulling it out to read again soon? No. It's just too difficult and uncomfortable of a text. Do I think everyone should read it? Absolutely. I feel that you need to read and learn about the past in order to not repeat it in the future. And this book is an excellent example of such.
My mother-in-law saw Alex Haley speak at a convention shortly after the Roots mini-series was aired. Donna told me that the one thing Haley said was his advice for everyone in the room was this, and I'm paraphrasing, talk to the older people in your family and get their stories. Some of the stories in your own family can be way more fascinating than anything you can watch on television or read in a book. My Aunt Naomia has all of her old journals from years ago and she told me this past week that someone along the way told her to write her own story. She told me that she didn't feel anyone would be interested enough to read a book about her...I was there to tell her that the opposite was actually true. And you should do the same within your own family, go talk to an elder in your family today!