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The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

The Moor's Account

by Laila Lalami

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4342834,404 (3.9)93
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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Well-written, but suffers from a common problem of novelized biographies -- real life does not provide neat plot points or satisfying story arcs. Much like real life, the story meandered. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
I only give it 1 star because I can't give it 0. Seriously?!? A Pulitzer Prize finalist? Are they kidding? This book was almost as bad as "The Goldfinch". Hard to follow and downright confusing at times. Just because the ending was good is no reason to say that this book was good. Spend your precious free time reading something far more worthwhile and entertaining. ( )
  ppmarkgraf | May 5, 2018 |
It could have been so much better Taken from one line of a historical account, Lalia Lalami creates a fictional reconstruction of a slave from Morocco in the form of Mustafa, who has come to the "New World" (present-day Florida, Texas and then Mexico). He has come with a Spanish expedition (the Narváez expedition) to North and Central America.
Mustafa relates his origins, from his humble beginnings to eventually selling himself into slavery to help feed his remaining family. After a short stop he is sold to another man to pay off his previous owner's debts and sets off for the Americas. From there we watch as the expedition eventually dwindle to a group of 4 after shipwrecks, disease, getting lost. Cannibalism was rumored among the expedition. The remaining 4 eventually begin to ingratiate themselves with the local Native American tribes. It is not easy at first, but they eventually gain a reputation for being healers.
I thought the book started out well, and was intrigued by the story. Does Mustafa ever get to go home? We don't know all that much about his life, and I tried not to research too much for fear of spoilers. It looks like the author makes an effort to integrate history as much as possible, although the account of the expedition is supposedly riddled with chronological and geographical errors--historians are not sure of the route the expedition actually took.
But the book really drags in the middle, once they begin to settle among the tribes of Southern Texas. I get that many years pass and these "explorers" gradually let go of the idea of going "home," but this made the story difficult to remain interested in. It begins to pick up once the final 4 encounter other Spaniards, but by then my interest had seriously waned. I'm not too surprised how the book ended for the final 4 men, although I could not be a little sad in knowing of what Mustafa left behind and would never see again. Part of me hoped it would end differently, but given the time period it was not unexpected or a surprise.
I wanted to like the book more but found it could be difficult to follow at times. There is no map and no glossary and I had to Google search the names of the tribes to guess where the men were. I suppose as it's written like it had been produced during the actual expedition or not long after, it's understandable. But a map, glossary or some sort of "note" by a future historian really would have been helpful!
  ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
I cannot tell you how many times I picked up this book in the bookstore before I bought it -- drawn in by its lovely cover and interesting title. I don't know why I kept putting it back down. But I'm glad I finally carried it to the register.

There are so many things that I loved in this book that I don't know where to begin. From Mustafa's childhood -- in love with the bustle of the marketplace despite the disapproval of his father, who wants him to follow in his footsteps as a notary -- to the indignities of his life as a slave in Spain, where it doesn't take lashings or beatings to drive home that the very denial of self is violence -- to the rising sense of dread when the tiny band of survivors' time in the wilderness comes to an end, and they are brought into contact with "civilization" once again. Really, once the story reached that last stage I couldn't stop reading -- hunched over my book while I faked my way through the motions of interacting with my family -- then staying up way into the wee hours of the night to finish.

So much of this story is horrifying to the modern reader -- and I don't mean the mysterious diseases, the starvation, or even the occasional cannibalism. I mean the utter hubris of a group of explorers reading a proclamation to an empty beach about how this land now belongs to God, therefore the crown, therefore us, and therefore you (reminder, the absent you, who never heard the proclamation because you weren't there) will comply with everything we say or we will make war with you. A thing that was real and apparently happened all the time. And that proclamation gave them authority to torture, steal, rape, desecrate, and destroy their way across the continent. But then when the expedition floundered, and handfuls of survivors found themselves dependent on various tribes of natives, oh the bitching and whining at how they were treated!

Maybe this is the era Trump is nostalgic for when he wants to make America great again. He and his fondness for Andrew Jackson. Back when rich white representatives of power could do anything they liked with anyone who was not. "Oh, don't worry!" says the smiling man in charge! "They're not slaves, we're much more civilized than that now!" as he steadfastly refuses to release a group of natives, and nimbly deflects all questions as to why they're being held in the first place.

It's not survival porn, though. Mustafa as a narrator keeps us grounded in humanity, with his longing for home, with his empathy, with his desire to be free.

Such a wonderful book. And important for these times. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
The author describes the characters so richly, I felt I was right there with the slaves and Spaniards as they sailed to The Floridas and encountered the American Indians. This story is told from the eyes and ears of a Moorish slave who accompanied famous Spaniards such as Cabeza de Vaca on their journey. The tale shows how dictatorship and egotism can poison a crew, and petty grievances among men can do the same. The in-fighting leaves the men weakened for what awaits them once they reach land. Karma seems to be a theme, but finding your own voice and speaking your own truth is a stronger one. While the slave fights for what he wants, as do all the men, ultimately, as in life, acceptance of where he is and living in the moment brings him the peace for which he yearned. ( )
  ErinDenver | Jun 12, 2017 |
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For My Daughter
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In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful. Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds, and prayers and blessings be on our prophet Muhammad and upon all his progeny and companions. This book is the humble work of Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori, being a true account of his life and travels from the city of Azemmur to the Land of the Indians, where he arrived as a slave and, in his attempt to return to freedom, was shipwrecked and lost for many years.
I could not understand this habit of naming settlements after Spanish cities even when, as in the case of Guadalajara, that city had received its name from those who had conquered it. In Arabic, the name Guadalajara evoked a valley of stones, a valley my ancestors and settled more than eight hundred years earlier. They had carried the disease of empire to Spain, the Spaniards had brought it to the new continent, and someday the people of the new continent would plant it elsewhere. That was the way of the world. Perhaps it was foolish to wish that it were different.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307911667, Hardcover)

From the widely praised author of Secret Son and Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits—a stunning piece of historical fiction: the imagined memoirs of the New World’s first explorer of African descent, a Moroccan slave known as Estebanico.
In 1527, Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from Spain with a crew of six hundred men, intending to claim for the Spanish crown what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States. But from the moment the expedition reached Florida, it met with ceaseless bad luck—storms, disease, starvation, hostile natives—and within a year there were only four survivors, including the young explorer Andrés Dorantes and his slave, Estebanico. After six years of enslavement by Native Americans, the four men escaped and wandered through what is now Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Moor’s Account brilliantly captures Estebanico’s voice and vision, giving us an alternate narrative for this famed expedition. As this dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration, and that Native American men and women were not merely silent witnesses to it. In Laila Lalami’s deft hands, Estebanico’s memoir illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, even as storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:50 -0400)

"The imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, on a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive. As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the way in which our narratives can transmigrate into history--and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival."--Provided by Publisher.… (more)

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