I started reading She Would King while on a company retreat but I dropped it because it didn’t feel like the right time. Thank you, sweet Jesus, for redirecting me to pick this book because what a ride! Stalked Wayétu Moore on Instagram until I got a follow back. I’ve never wanted to make out with a writer so bad! It was THAT good.
Category: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Published: September 2018
Pages: 312, Hardcover
She Would Be King reimagines the dramatic story of Liberia’s early years through three unforgettable characters who share an uncommon bond. Gbessa, exiled from the West African village of Lai, is starved, bitten by a viper, and left for dead, but still, she survives. June Dey, raised on a plantation in Virginia, hides his unusual strength until a confrontation with the overseer forces him to flee. Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave from Jamaica, can fade from sight when the earth calls him. When the three meet in the settlement of Monrovia, their gifts help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
Should You Bother Reading “She Would Be King”
Absolutely! You can already get the gist from the blurb, I don’t want to drop spoilers. The first thing that hit me in the middle of the book is how relatable the storytelling style was. If you’re a Nigerian kid who grew up in the 80s, you might remember watching Tales By Moonlight.
It was a TV show that was reminiscent of how elders told stories in the village to kids. And in these stories, something supernatural was always happening; talking tortoise, flying witches, etc.
This book made me realize that West African stories have had magical realism before magical realism was given its name. Moore stayed true to this style of storytelling and I felt nostalgic. This novel fucking fantastic. The characters were also some of the well-rounded ones I’ve ever read about and they will stay with me for a long time!
Perhaps one of the most beautiful things Moore does in She Would Be King is to pose questions, like: What does it mean to be accepted and good? How do you protect one’s freedom? Can you stop history from repeating itself?
And how do we navigate that which we do not understand? The questions ask that we reflect on the then and the now, all at once. The ways in which the characters view one another and other cultures also necessitate our own introspection.
This novel leaves you both satisfied and full of anticipation for what’s to come, in fiction and in reality. You NEED to read this book, you guys!
About The Author
Wayétu Moore is the founder of One Moore Book. One Moore Book is a non-profit organization that encourages reading among children of countries with low literacy rates and underrepresented cultures by publishing culturally relevant books that speak to their truths, and by creating bookstores and reading corners that serve their communities. Her first bookstore opened in Monrovia, Liberia in 2015.
She’s a graduate of Howard University and the University of Southern California and is currently a Margaret Mead Fellow at Columbia University Teachers College, where she’s researching the impact of culturally relevant curriculum and learning aids in elementary classrooms of underrepresented groups. Moore is an Africana Studies lecturer at City University of New York’s John Jay College and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
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