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Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past" - 4/5

I really enjoyed this book. At some point I had heard of a similar book by the same author (Finding Oprah's Roots: Finding Your Own) and had that on my wishlist, but then I happened to see this at the library and so got it instead. From reading this, it doesn't seem like the other book would offer anything different.

This one focuses on nineteen different people, eighteen famous people (most of whom are in the entertainment industry, but there's an astronaut and some pastors and stuff like that, too) and one "ordinary" person who was chosen out of a bunch of applicants to have her family researched.

Everybody's family history was interesting, and there was quite a lot of variety among them, so it didn't feel like you were reading the same thing over and over.

What was repetitive was the writing, and that's really the only thing that kept me from giving this a five. In general, the writing was very good and I enjoyed reading it, but the author has a really bad habit of repeating his favorite facts ad nauseum. This really came up a lot in the DNA analysis section of each chapter. Each time it was revealed that the person had such and such percent African DNA, such and such percent European, such and such percent Native American, he would go into the exact same spiel about it. And the way he would do it is he would say, "As I told [person who's family history he was currently researching], blah blah blah", and I'm like, yes, I get that you had to explain to each person individually. But you do not need to tell us that again and again in the book! Gloss over it! This happened multiple times per chapter and by the end of the book was really annoying.

Anyway! Overall the book was really enjoyable, though. And I think it's enjoyable for anyone who likes reading about history on an individual level rather than the broader strokes of a textbook, even if you're not particularly interested in genealogy.


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