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The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
Historical fiction

The Moor's Account

by Laila Lalami

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Quick take

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

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Inspirational

    Inspirational

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest

    Quest

Synopsis

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, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer named Andrés Dorantes de Carranza; and Dorantes’s Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori, whom the 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.

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Why I love it

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 ratings (726)

  • Haley H.

    Sunnyside, NY

    Whoa. SO much packed into one story but is stays surprisingly cohesive bc of a richly developed narrator. I didn’t need convincing that Cortes et al were horrific but it’s now feels much more personal

  • Tamara A.

    Avondale, AZ

    A truly great book! I loved how the author told a full story from Mustafa’s POV, who Cabeza de Vaca only mentioned in one line of his recounting of their travels. Wonderful that he finally escapes!

  • Gina M.

    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.

  • Kim N.

    Grosse Pointe Park , MI

    Just excellent. The history really helps you understand colonization and the damage it’s causes to the indigenous people living there. It is wrong to assume that land can be usurped by opportunists

  • Sydney A.

    Brockport, NY

    Loved the stories of exploration and everyday life! It showed many cultures and was interesting how the main character was viewed in each. Loved the unique perspective and journeys of the characters.

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