She Would Be king is the sensational debut novel from Wayétu Moore, her depiction of a fictional supernatural retelling of Liberia’s founding years. With characters that can’t die, who possess superhuman strength and the ability to disappear and reappear at will, this is no ordinary history book.
Fans of Afro-fiction will devour the bold, epic story of magical realism, superhero fantasy, and post-colonial feminist re-appropriation. At its heart the book explores the idea of perspective. From the first-person narration of the protagonists, to the reader’s inevitable contemplation of the question; ‘if you were given a unique super power that made you different from everyone else, would you regard yourself as cursed or blessed?’
The story follows the fate of three extraordinary characters. 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 nevertheless survives. Born into slavery on a plantation in Virginia, June Dey hides his unusual strength until a confrontation forces him to flee. And in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Norman Aragon, the child of a white British colonizer and a Maroon slave, can fade from sight at will, just as his mother could.
“I wanted to explore the marriage of the indigenous African, the African American and the Caribbean point of views.”
Between Moore’s poetic writing style, the surprising twists and turns and unapologetically unexplained truths about African culture, this page turner reminded me very much of another popular Afro-fiction novel.
The characters are thoughtfully and well-developed, and I became thoroughly invested in their fates, while unwittingly receiving a valuable lesson about the tumultuous roots of Liberia.
View this post on Instagram
BOOK GIVEAWAY: I have author copies of the soon-to-be-published UK #shewouldbeking that I want you to have! To enter, comment what you’re currently reading and tag a friend. Like last time, 5 winners will be randomly chosen and we’ll mail your book next week. (p.s. forever grateful to @shemakesmarks for this stunning art…which does not come with the book 😂)
It turns out that writing the book was a cathartic experience for the author too. She told us: “When I started writing my novel, I hadn’t been back to Liberia since I was five, so it was a way for me to reconnect and rediscover a part of me that had been lost because of the war.”
Moore continued: “Liberian history is a part of American history, but in my public-school history books, that history was either reduced to one sentence or altogether absent. So growing up and hearing my father tell stories about the country’s history and the experiment of bringing together black people from all over the world in what they hoped would be a sanctuary, and making peace with those who were already there, who had never left, was something that I knew I always wanted to unpackage through literature. I wanted to explore the marriage of the indigenous African, the African American and the Caribbean point of views.”
This is a book for all ages. Back to the theme of perspective, young readers, like the protagonists who despised their ‘gifts’ for making them different, will understand the overwhelming need to conform and fit in. For most of us, it’s only when we get to a certain level of maturity that we begin to appreciate the fullness of our talents and the things that make us different.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, so we’re hoping that Moore is busy working on the follow up. We really want to know if she becomes king!
Buy She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore, here.