The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2015 MAN BOOKER - PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST - WINNER OF THE AMERICAN BOOK AWARD - WINNER OF THE HURSTON/WRIGHT LEGACY AWARD -
In 1527 the Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez arrived on the coast of modern-day Florida with hundreds of settlers, and claimed the region for Spain. Almost immediately, the expedition was decimated by a combination of navigational errors, disease, starvation and fierce resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year, only four survivors remained: three noblemen and a Moroccan slave called Estebanico. The official record, set down after a reunion with Spanish forces in 1536, contains only the three freemen s accounts. The fourth, to which the title of Laila Lalami s masterful novel alludes, is Estebanico s own. Lalami gives us Estebanico as history never did: as Mustafa, the vibrant merchant from Azemmur forced into slavery and a new name, and reborn as the first black explorer of the Americas, discovering and being discovered by various tribes both hostile and compassionate. In Estebanico s telling, the survivors journey across great swathes of the New World transforms would-be conquerors into humble servants and fearful outcasts into faith healers. He remains ever-observant, resourceful and hopeful that he might one day find his way back to his family, even as he experiences an unexpected (if ambiguous) camaraderie with his masters. The Moor' s Account illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, and how storytelling can offer a chance for redemption, reinvention and survival.