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All booksHistorical fictionThe Moor's Account
The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
Historical fiction

The Moor's Account

by Laila Lalami

Quick take

Selling yourself into slavery to provide for your family: jerk move or noble sacrifice? Think'¦ think'¦

Why I love it

Craig Ferguson
Mar. 2016

Author's Summary:

In this stunning work of historical fiction, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave whose testimony was left out of the official record.

In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez sailed from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown and, in the process, become as wealthy and famous as Hernán Cortés.

But from the moment the Narváez expedition landed in Florida, it faced peril—navigational errors, disease, starvation, as well as resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year there were only four survivors: the expedition's treasurer, Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes; and Dorantes's Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the other three Spaniards called Estebanico. These four survivors would go on to make a journey across America that would transform them from proud conquistadores to humble servants, from fearful outcasts to faith healers.

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.


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Member thoughts

All (377)
All (377)
Love (193)
Like (153)
Dislike (31)
413 ratings
  • 47% Love
  • 37% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • Hixson, TN

    This was a great book. It provided a somber insight into the early exploration of the Americas. Strongly written description of the struggles that took place and the hardships endured. A must read.

  • New York, NY

    This book was so incredibly epic. While "adventure-story"/ "travel-logs" are not typically to my taste, I found this to be completely transcendent above genre and a necessary story full of humanity.

  • Denver, CO

    It was hard to read with nontraditional dialogue structure, but I truly came to love this book. Adventure, love, history, all the good stuff. I really enjoyed the portrayal of so many diverse tribes

  • Alexandria, VA

    The writing is evocative, the characterization feels out of this time yet still relatable, and this version the new world is utterly fascinating. Love this book. It well deserved its Pulitzer nod!

  • Sioux Falls, SD

    I love historic novels so this was perfect for me! I loved the combination of all the different cultures that were smashed together, from the Moroccan, to the Spanish, to the Native American.

  • Bethel Park, PA

    This was an amazing story about an African slave who journeyed to New Spain with the Spanish to explore the new world and find riches. The story was highly compelling and was very well-written.

  • Kansas City, MO

    The violent and tragic Spanish exposition of Florida, from the perspective of an enslaved Moorish man. An imagined account of real events; I love that it gives voice to those erased by history.

  • Alabaster, AL

    I love any type of historical book, so I wa s excited to read this one. It was a little slow at parts, but I enjoyed the side story of the main character that tells more about his unique life.

  • Chicago, IL

    This is the account of an explorer as a slave and what exactly that really means. It challenges you to think about what it really means to be free. It was genuinely riveting and illuminating.

  • Milwaukee, WI

    Oh my goodness I loved this book! The exploration of a forgotten perspective really made me think of what else happened I never got the opportunity to learn about. Would definitely recommend.

  • Fort Collins, CO

    I kept having to pause and look up historical rabbit trails. It really is a shame how little of history is actually taught - historical fiction gives a voice to the forgotten and overlooked.

  • Durango, CO

    What an excellent story to craft in the midst of such history in the making. It felt absolutely real snd true to me. I’d like to think it was his true tale. Loved this book.

  • Cleburne, TX

    This is exactly what historical fiction should look like, an engrossing almost fact-based tale, so well written it can be digested in one sitting, and remembered delightful.

  • Denver, CO

    What an interesting look at what it means to be human, owned by other humans, and then fighting for survival. Loved this look into history as tough as this time period is.

  • Bozeman, MT

    Historical fiction at its best -- compelling, engaging, and driving me to do research. A timeless tale of greed, ambition, and cruelty. Loved the voice of the narrator.

  • Kansas City, MO

    Beautiful writing. Historical fiction isn't usually my thing but the strong voice made this a captivating read. I loved how all the different cultures were represented.

  • Lansing, MI

    I really enjoyed this book. At first the writing style was hard for me to get used to but once the story picked up I was sucked in and couldn't put it down!

  • Bolling AFB , DC

    I liked how this story took you on a journey. There is the journey the MC takes as he learns about himself but also a journey through many foreign lands.

  • Los Angeles, CA

    Great look at the real horrors of the explorers and the violence of conquest. Lalami created a unique memoir on a figure that has largely been forgotten.

  • Kaysville, UT

    I wasn't that excited about the present storyline but I really liked the times when he told stories about his parents and before he was a slave.

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