Books by Alex Haley

Released: May 22, 2007

If you are of a certain age and were anywhere near the United States in early 1977, you probably remember the bona fide social phenomenon that was the first airing of the miniseries Roots. For a week in late January, across the country, Roots parties were the rage, while across all media a national conversation began on the always uncomfortable question of slavery and its contribution to America's course and character. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 5, 1998

Screenwriter Stevens (who completed the late Haley's Queen, 1993) has now crafted from another incomplete Haley novel one of those heartwarming generational sagas—destined as a miniseries on CBS-TV in November—that relies on individuals as eyewitnesses to history. Too often, when characters are turned into representatives of the Zeitgeist, they dance to the music of time rather than to the promptings of the heart, and Mama Flora's Family is no exception, but with one caveat: Mama Flora herself is as memorable a character as Root's Kunta Kinte and Chicken George. The eldest daughter of poor black farmers in Mississippi, Flora is seduced by the son of a wealthy black plantation owner and has to give up her baby and leave the state as a result. A devout Christian, Flora settles in a small Tennessee town, where she is helped by the local preacher to find work. After a brief but loving marriage to Booker, who is murdered by the Klan, Flora is determined that their only son Willie will go to college. But Willie, unlike Ruthana (the niece Flora raises when her sister dies), is no student: He leaves school, but the Depression makes work hard to find, so he heads to Chicago. There, he becomes involved with drug dealers and black communists, then joins the army and fights heroically in the Pacific, only to return to find racial prejudice still entrenched. The times are changing, though, and Flora and her growing family respond in different ways. Some become Moslem, others join the Black Panthers, take drugs, or, like Ruthana, go to Africa. Even Flora does her part, by single-handedly desegregating the local cafÇ. At the reunion for her 80th birthday, the community and her family are all there to honor her. Not in the same class as Roots, but an affecting if superficial take on recent racial history. (Literary Guild alternate selection) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 29, 1965

He was called Malcolm Little at birth; he was buried as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz; but he lived most of his life as Malcolm X and was the most rabid racist of his time while he ran counter to the movement which dominated it. As he said over the cups of coffee cum cream he drank with Alex Haley (who took down this story and contributes a long epilogue), it "was the only thing I like integrated" His father was one of six out of seven boys who died violently (predominantly at white hands). Malcolm X never doubted for a minute that he would be assassinated, just as he was. His mother was committed to a state mental hospital— "legal modern slavery." He was farmed out and by the time he was sixteen had been schooled to the hard fact that "everything in life is a hustle." "Sharp" by this time, he came to New York, to Harlem, where he steered white women to black men, stole, took cocaine, and learned the "cesspool morals of the white man from the best possible source, from his own women." Sent to prison at twenty one, he found Allah, the religion of Islam and Elijah Muhammad there. Once out, he became one of Muhammad's most militant disciples and seared his way across the national scene. Interestingly enough, it was after Muhammad "silenced" him, i.e, suspended him from the movement, that he went to the original Holy City and the Holy Land and became more aware of the possibility of white and black "oneness" Handler's introduction and Haley's personal commentary at the close present the "black panther" coiled to spring in somewhat softer focus although his intemperate hatred (Justified to some extent by the circumstances of his early life) and lashing zealotry fire the book from beginning to end. Particularly in its view of the rough underside of Harlem does the record have a revelatory as well as testamentary impact. An important one... Read full book review >