Rooted in History

Self-published author Adam Henig wrote Alex Haley's Roots: An Author's Odyssey. It took Henig five years to write the book using personal letters, trascripts, interviews and articles totaling nearly 2500 documents. The book is available in paperback, eboo

Adam Henig never envisioned himself as a writer, but it was practically inevitable.
Henig, the biographer behind “Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey,” said floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a father who was a United States history professor played an immense role in cultivating his passion for African-American culture and literature.
Henig, 35, said he spent a lot of time as a child at the library “sifting through archival documents, seeking out a specific article or correspondence” as his father—an author himself—worked away.
“I found the whole process fascinating,” he said. “It was like putting a puzzle together—first you gather the pieces, then you take what you have and put it together, piece by piece.”
His passion for African-American history was strengthened after his first viewing of the miniseries “Roots,” based upon Haley’s novel, “Roots: The Saga of an American Family.”
“(My) history teacher was leading a lesson about slavery in America,” he said. “Instead of reading about it from our textbook, she thought it would be more advantageous if we were able to watch it in a dramatization. (It) was so difficult to watch that I had to look away.”
Years after his initial viewing of “Roots,” Henig revisited the series, not knowing it would act as a catalyst and inspire him to write a biography of Haley. He was surprised to learn that very little had been published on Haley. Henig’s curiosity about the author grew and “Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey” was born.
“How could one of the 20th century’s most popular and impactful American writers not have a detailed biography?” Henig said.
Driving Henig’s interest in Haley and the controversies surrounding him was a curiosity about why the best-selling author disappeared from fame, though he was a trailblazer and celebrated icon.
“(It’s typical for people) in society to come and go,” Henig said. “But Alex Haley should have had roots.”
His carefully crafted work sets out to explain the many factors leading to Haley’s disappearance from the public eye. Henig examines the times before, during and after Haley’s fall from fame, presenting information on the controversies Haley faced during his lifetime.
The book was a long-term project based on passion and devotion.
“(It took) a total of four years from start to finish,” Henig said, adding that he consulted with archives throughout the United States, former employees of Haley and engaged in genealogical research about the “Roots” author.
Often working to balance life as a husband and father of two young boys, Henig found himself working odd hours, enveloped by his desire to share Haley’s story.
“Whether it’s before my family wakes up in the morning or after everyone goes to bed in the evening, sitting at the kitchen table with my laptop, I never a let an opportunity (to write) pass,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”
Henig’s choice to self-publish was influenced by what he refers to as the “democratization of publishing,” as online sellers have succeeded in allowing any with the determination to self-publish to do so. Henig said the timing was just right.
“I was lucky to publish at the time that the self-publishing culture was growing,” he said. “Self-publishing six or seven years ago was looked down upon, but the industry has since been upended by self-publishing authors.”
Self-publishing has allowed Henig to reach readers around the world and he has found he has audiences in Europe and South America.
Henig doesn’t view the hours spent researching and writing as work. Instead, he said it is pure enjoyment and he finds pleasure in sharing the lesser-known stories of those he finds interest in. While some might shy away from the thought of rising before the dawn to work on researching and writing, Henig doesn’t.
“Some people like to go hunting or go to baseball games,” he said. “I like to do this.”

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