The Moor's Account

The Moor's Account

Book - 2014
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**Longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize**
**Nominated for the 2016 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award**

A Pulitzer Prize Finalist
A New York Times Notable Book
A Wall Street Journal Top 10 Book of the Year
An NPR Great Read of 2014
A Kirkus Best Fiction Book of the Year

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, 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 conquis-tadores 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 the dramatic chronicle unfolds, we come to understand that, contrary to popular belief, black men played a significant part in New World exploration and 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 for redemption and survival.
Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, [2014]
ISBN: 9780307911667
Branch Call Number: FIC LALA
Characteristics: 323 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

An inventive historical novel that imagines the story of the first Muslim to set foot on North America, recasting European conquest from a marginalized perspective.

November Selection: 16th Century. The imagined memoirs of the first black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave who traveled with conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez, whose goal was to claim the now Gulf Coast for the Spanish crown.

From the critics

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Dec 07, 2020

The fiction account of the Spanish conquest of La Florida by a Muslim slave.

PimaLib_ChristineR Aug 25, 2020

In 1527 the Narvaez expedition, numbering about 600, left Spain to explore and settle "La Florida" in the new world. In 1536 the four survivors of the expedition walked into Mexico City. One of these survivors, Cabeza de Vaca, would write about the journey, leaving this single line about the one enslaved, non-Spaniard to survive: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor." And it is from this single line that Lalami imagines an entire fictionalized history for this little remembered explorer.

The Moor's Account is a gripping tale of adventure, and stupidity. Narvaez's group met with ill-luck in the form of storms and desertions, but many of the troubles they brought on themselves through mismanagement and poor judgement. If we didn't have the history to compare it to, it would seem almost unbelievable that Narvaez would make so many disastrous decisions. Once Estebanico and the few survivors finally integrate with the native people, the story becomes one of the shifting alliances and views of the men, where Estebanico is no longer treated as a slave, but as an equal, while on their return to the Spanish outpost, he finds himself once again relegated to his former position.

The story took me a few chapters to get into, but once it started moving, the plot was interesting and well-paced, and the shifting relationships of the characters were fascinating. I would highly recommend if you are a fan of historical fiction or adventure stories in general.

Jan 25, 2020


Jul 04, 2019

I cannot rate this, I didn't finish it. For me it was tedious, the tiny print made it even more difficult to follow. I've read many accounts of the explorers to the Florida area & across the southern area into Mexico. Michael Wood - the Conquistadors - a DVD & book.

May 30, 2019

A beautifully told story that draws the reader in, gently leading us on an incredible voyage through time and across oceans. The early encounters between Spanish colonizers and native peoples in America are stunningly portrayed and the experience of the enslaved Moorish protagonist infuses the tale with humanity and compassion. Absolutely spellbinding.

May 26, 2019

This took a while to engage me, but once it did, I couldn't look away. Beautiful, thoughtful writing, and a necessary intervention into history.

Mar 15, 2017

A good read. Finally, their story instead of history.

Jan 06, 2017

An interesting imagining of a disastrous Spanish expedition to Florida in the 16th century told from the perspective of a slave. The role of the colonizers and the Church in the genocide of indigenous peoples is shown, as is the humanity of the aboriginal peoples. A very enjoyable and interesting read.

Aug 16, 2015

A very satisfying read, well deserving its nominations for prestigious literary prizes.

Jul 29, 2015

very good writer

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PimaLib_ChristineR Aug 25, 2020

No lies are more seductive than the ones we use to console ourselves.

PimaLib_ChristineR Aug 25, 2020

Know now that these conquerors, like many others before them, and no doubt like others after, gave speeches not to voice the truth, but to create it.


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