She Would Be King

Graywolf. Sept. 2018. 312p. ISBN 9781555978174. $26. F
Many books are devoted to connecting Africans of the diaspora, yet Margaret Mead Fellow Moore's debut does so with remarkable physical, spiritual, and mystical dimensions. It reimagines the formation of Liberia through protagonists June Dey, a runaway from Virginia after conflict with his overseer; Norman, a freedman of mixed race from Jamaica; and, mainly, Gbessa, a woman from the native Vai tribe, who is deemed a witch and ostracized by fellow villagers. What seems a chance meeting is Mother Africa bringing them together for their gifts to be used to save Liberia, which still draws European enslavers despite the illegalization of the transatlantic slave trade. Whether separately or together, their encounters with others reveal their many-layered personalities as well as the changing societies around them. The descriptions of racism are not overt; Moore uses the experiences to reveal the systemic oppression of Africans of the diaspora and the desire to reconnect with the continent. The dialog is fluid and poetic, allowing readers to imagine the events, sights, smells, feelings, and sensations.
VERDICT As with Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing, this work will appeal to lovers of African, African American, and literary fiction.
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