‘She Would Be King’ puts a spotlight on Liberia’s roots

Friday, September 20, 2019 - 5:58pm

Natalie Kastner

Natalie Kastner Buy this photo
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This past Thursday, the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art and the Zell Visiting Writers Series hosted author Wayetu Moore to discuss her debut novel, “She Would Be King.” She started off the evening by discussing her dedication for the book. She spoke about the importance of her Liberian family, having moved to the U.S. from Liberia at the age of five. These roots were the inspiration for her novel. She did not return to the country until after she finished her novel. To write the book, she relied heavily on research and her earliest memories. 

The novel is set during the liberation of Liberia. In the mid-19th century, Liberia was the very first independent African country to form during the time of colonization. Moore’s three central characters have drastically different backgrounds; however, they all seem to utilize their differences to help them. 

I found the reading to be especially riveting, as Moore is a natural storyteller. The excerpt she read depicted a pregnant young woman attempting to hide the birth of her child because the child was cursed. Moore read with a refreshing passion, usually found more in performers than writers. 

The story follows three people all from different backgrounds, all deemed cursed by society. They all meet in the new nation of Liberia. The novel explores the African diaspora, community and the meaning of family. 

“The most profound thing I heard in this reading was just the way that she sought to honor her family as well as the narratives that were a part of her childhood,” Julia McDaniel, a graduate student in the Zell Writers’ Program, said. 

Moore’s writing style is packed with magical realism. Throughout the book, a magical wind guides the story along. It softens and personifies the harsh realities of life in tumultuous political times. 

After the event, Moore entered the UMMA atrium with grace and confidence far beyond her young age. She greeted the modest line of those wanting their book signed with eager and open kindness. 

Even though this is Moore’s debut novel, she is no stranger to activism — she has a nonprofit organization that publishes and distributes literature about underrepresented people to underprivileged areas. Her generosity was apparent in her tenacity of spirit during her reading. She was excited to share her culture with fellow writers.