In this new year, I would like to write more about the many books by African authors that I’ve been delving into. The debut novel She Would Be King, by Liberian author Wayetu Moore, is one that I know will stick with me for a lifetime. To be transparent, I listened to the novel on Audible, which was read, or rather performed by the author, who flavors the narration with a mix of accents that are both impressive and gripping.
Accents aside, Moore adroitly combines the trendy box office sensation of superheroes with the delicate topics of slavery, migration, and contrastive characters that shaped Liberia’s conflated history without plunging the book into the Young Adult genre. Such Horror! The term Magical Realism is often strewn about in reference to SWBK. While appropriate, I can’t help but to ponder the fact that most of our African beliefs, or believes of indigenous peoples the world over, are mostly riddled with magic. I digress.
Moore’s storytelling offers a view into Liberia’s past through the lens of three characters that represent real and mythical elements that constitute Liberia’s history: Gbessa, an indigenous Vai girl who has been labeled a witch by her people due to the ominous events that took place on the day of her birth, she cannot be killed; June Dey, the herculean, free-born son of Virginia plantation slaves; and Norman Aragon, the son of a British slave owner and a Maroon mother from Jamaica possesses the gift of blending into the earth as a mode of survival, and war tactic. These characters are spun into the tale of a nation’s vibrant history that only Moore can weave.
She Would be King gently unfolds the intricacies of a nation created by the returned sons and daughters of those robbed of their rights to choose, and their interactions with the indigenous people who are defending what they have always chosen to be their own.