A novel of exhilarating range, magical realism, and history–a dazzling retelling of Liberia’s formation
Wayétu Moore’s powerful debut novel, 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.
Moore’s intermingling of history and magical realism finds voice not just in these three characters but also in the fleeting spirit of the wind, who embodies an ancient wisdom. “If she was not a woman,” the wind says of Gbessa, “she would be king.” In this vibrant story of the African diaspora, Moore, a talented storyteller and a daring writer, illuminates with radiant and exacting prose the tumultuous roots of a country inextricably bound to the United States. She Would Be King is a novel of profound depth set against a vast canvas and a transcendent debut from a major new author.
Wayétu Moore (born 1985) is a Liberian-American author and social entrepreneur. Her debut novel, She Would Be King, was published by Graywolf Press in September 2018, and was named a best book of 2018 by Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly & BuzzFeed. The novel was positively reviewed by Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. Moore has published work in The New York Times, The Paris Review, Guernica Magazine, The Atlantic, and other journals. She was awarded a Lannan Literary Fellowship for fiction in 2019. In 2011, Moore founded a publishing house and nonprofit organization, One Moore Book, which publishes and distributes books intended for children in countries underrepresented in literature.