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She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore

She Would Be King: A Novel (edition 2018)

by Wayétu Moore (Author)

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287865,764 (3.75)16
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, 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. -- Adapted from jacket.… (more)
Title:She Would Be King: A Novel
Authors:Wayétu Moore (Author)
Info:Graywolf Press (2018), Edition: 1st, 312 pages
Collections:Your library

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She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore



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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
stunning. use of third person and the wind as narrator allows the story to open up wide. ( )
  brontella | Feb 13, 2020 |
This wasn't my jam. More fantastical magical realism than I have the patience for. I liked some of the writing and it's tone, other times it was a little schlocky. I did some skimming after the first half. ( )
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
This is a blend of historical fiction and magical realism purporting to tell of the founding of the African country of Liberia. Gbessa is a native woman with red hair who is considered a witch, June Dey is an escaped American slave with a body inpenatrable by bullets, and Norman Aragon is the son of a white scientist and a Jamaican maroon (an African who has escaped slavery there) who has the ability to disappear. This was just too weird a book for me, although I did finish it. ( )
1 vote riofriotex | Oct 2, 2019 |
Hard on the heels of Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo (see my review), comes another example of historical fiction being used to rewrite the history that has been written by colonisers. She Would Be King by Liberian-American author Wayétu Moore, blends historical fact with magic realism to trace the emergence of modern Liberia on the West African coast. This is the blurb:
In the west African village of Lai, red-haired Gbessa is cursed at birth and exiled on suspicion of being a witch. Bitten by a viper and left for dead, she survives to discover a new life with a group of African American settlers in the colony of Monrovia.

Then Gbessa meets two extraordinary others; June Dey – a man of unusual strength, born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia – and Norman Aragon, the child of a white British coloniser and a Maroon slave from the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, who can fade from sight at will.

Soon all three realise that they are cursed – or perhaps, uniquely gifted. Together they protect the weak and vulnerable, but only Gbessa can salvage the tense relationship between the settlers and the indigenous tribes.

In her transcendent debut, Wayétu Moore illuminates the tumultuous roots of Liberia, blending history and magical realism in a profound tale of resistance and humanity.
Wikipedia tells me that Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. Moore suggests that the motivations were more complex than that. The story is narrated by the Wind, who is the spirit of an American plantation slave called Charlotte, and she tells us that US President Polk had matters 'more important' on his mind than the wellbeing of slaves. (In fact, he was a slaveowner himself, see here, and slavery was legal in the US until 1865, 32 years after Britain abolished it). Polk acquiesced in the ACS plans, but refused any funding for the settlement, provoking an angry response on all sides:
...objections from the black free Negro population that refused to leave the United States, a disgruntled South that argued Polk had indirectly criticised the ownership of slaves, a suspicious North that believed that Polk was acting in the best interest of the South and Southerners. (p.202)
Moore depicts Polk as hostile to the ACS, which Wikipedia says was bitterly opposed by Black Americans who thought that the society respected slavery instead of opposing it. Polk (in Moore's novel)
... wanted little to do with the American Colonization Society and what he considered the self-righteous, vitriolic Quakers behind it. In fact, Polk believed that they most certainly hated Negroes the most. To spend the money and time required to send them back would be as maniacally racist as the man who brands his slaves as cattle, as the patrol who hunts for the thrill of seeing black flesh burn, the bigot... (p.202)
These factors come into play when Gbessa, the Vai woman cursed since birth as a witch, survives a brutal attack by French slavers* and comes into the orbit of the ACS.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/09/21/she-would-be-king-by-wayetu-moore/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Sep 21, 2019 |
This is a beautiful book. It's a little difficult to grasp initially because the pov reads as an omniscient third person with the occasional reminder that the narrator is actually a spirit character who chimes in from time to time in the first person. But as the stories of the three main characters unfold and eventually intertwine, the novel becomes a little easier to piece together and the narration becomes pretty stunningly effective. It's a meandering exploration of myth and history and what it means to be free. Well balanced and gracefully nuanced, Moore has written a wonderful story. ( )
  Sarah_Angleton | Aug 16, 2019 |
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Princes shall come out of Egypt; Africa shall soon stretch out her hands unto God. --Psalm 68:31
To Gus and Mam
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