The Moor's Account

Praise and Reviews

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist

American Book Award winner

Arab American Book Award winner

Hurston-Wright Legacy Award winner

Man Booker Prize Longlist

New York Times Notable Book

Wall Street Journal Top 10 Books of the Year

Financial Times Best Books of the Year

NPR Great Reads of 2014

Kirkus Best Fiction Books of the Year


“Laila Lalami has fashioned an absorbing story of one of the first encounters between Spanish conquistadores and Native Americans, a frightening, brutal, and much-falsified history that here, in her brilliantly imagined fiction, is rewritten to give us something that feels very like the truth.”
— Salman Rushdie

“Laila Lalami’s radiant, arrestingly vivid prose instantly draws us into the world of the first black slave in the New World whose name we know—Estebanico. A bravura performance of imagination and empathy, The Moor’s Account reverberates long after the final page.”
— Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“Laila Lalami has created an unforgettable drama of wonder out of the gaps and silences in the master narratives of colonial conquests. She gives name to the unnamed; agency to the sidelined; she takes them from footnotes into the footprints that make up the pages of this remarkable novel. Lalami gives voice to the silences of history.”
— Ngugi wa Thiong’o

“A beautiful, rousing tale that would be difficult to believe if it were not actually true. Lalami has once again shown why she is one of her generation’s most gifted writers.”
— Reza Aslan, author of Zealot

“¡Qué belleza! Laila Lalami has given us a mesmerizing reimagining of one of the foundational chronicles of exploration of the New World. The style and voice of sixteenth-century crónicas are turned upside down to subtly undermine our understanding of race and religion, now and then. The Moor’s Account is a worthy stepchild of Don Quixote de la Mancha.”
— Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language and general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature

“A novel of extraordinary scope, ambition and originality. Laila Lalami has given voice to a man silenced for five centuries, a voice both convincing and compelling. The Moor’s Account is a work of creativity and compassion, one which demonstrates the full might of Lalami’s talent as a writer.”
— Aminatta Forna, award winning author of The Memory of Love, Ancestor Stones, and The Devil That Danced on the Water

“Tremendous and powerful, The Moor’s Account is one of the finest historical novels I’ve encountered in a while. It rings with thunder!”
— Gary Shteyngart

“In this ambitious historical novel, Mustafa, a Moorish slave in the sixteenth century…spins an exciting tale of wild hopes, divided loyalties, and highly precarious fortunes. His account also communicates a sense of the power and the privilege of storytelling, and Lalami develops this thread with great finesse. As the narrative progresses, various characters—from celebrated healers and victorious heroes to starving prisoners—reinvent themselves through narrative, and it is a story, too, that eventually enables Mustafa to become the master of his destiny.”
— The New Yorker

“A belief in the power and magic of tale-spinning is central to The Moor’s Account, which is animated by the pleasure of a long-suppressed voice savoring the freedom to finally make itself heard. Ms. Lalami’s novel elegantly testifies to the truth of Estebanico’s heartfelt declaration: “Reader,” he says, “the joy of a story is in its telling.”
— The Wall Street Journal (Best Books of 2014)

“A story with extraordinary power. The Moor’s Account is more than a good story, it’s a great one: rich, vivid and gripping; a thoughtful investigation into how we frame the narratives of our own lives.”
— The Guardian

“Lalami has created a vivid portrait of the invasion of the New World and the role of black slaves in conquest. The Moor’s Account is about the nature of storytelling and how the past is often rewritten: “Telling a story is like sowing a seed,” Estebanico cautions, “you always hope to see it become a beautiful tree, with firm roots and branches that soar up in the sky. But it is a peculiar sowing, for you will never know whether your seed spouts or dies.” Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow and Lalami’s story is a fertile blend of fact and fiction.
— The Financial Times (Best Books of 2015)

“In Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits and Secret Son, Laila Lalami probed individual lives to illuminate the contemporary social complexities of her native Morocco. She pulls back for an even broader perspective in this rich novel based on an actual, ill-fated 16th century Spanish expedition to Florida. Narrated by a Muslim slave on the expedition, The Moor’s Account offers a pungent alternative history that muses on the ambiguous power of words to either tell the truth or reshape it according to our desires.”
— Los Angeles Times

“In 1527, the Castilian conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez and a crew of 600 men sailed from Spain to the Gulf Coast of the United States to claim “La Florida” for the Spanish crown. Laila Lalami recounts the voyage — and its brutal aftermath — in her new novel, The Moor’s Account, from the perspective of Estebanico, a ­Moroccan slave of one of the explorers. It’s a fictional memoir, told in a controlled voice that feels at once historical and contemporary, that seeks to offer a truer account of the expedition than the official (and hopelessly biased) version of events provided by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, one of the other three survivors.”
— New York Times (Notable Book of 2014 and Editors’ Choice)

“Told in dreamlike prose that builds in a grim, leisurely parallel, as what Mustafa knows and what we know come ever closer to a dreadful vanishing point.”
— NPR (Best Books of 2014)

“Lalami has built a remarkable novel. The reader is gripped as the expedition lurches from disaster to disaster, a series of astonishing visual images held in an almost-cinematic exploration of “the other”.”
— The Independent

“Assured, lyrical imagining of the life of one of the first African slaves in the New World—a native, like Lalami, of Morocco and, like her, a gifted storyteller. Adding a new spin to a familiar story, Lalami offers an utterly believable, entertainingly told alternative to the historical record. A delight.”
— Kirkus (Starred and Best Books of 2014)

“Laila Lalami’s mesmerizing The Moor’s Account presents us a historical fiction that feels something like a plural totality (yes, a contradiction in terms), a narrative that braids points of view so intricately that they become one even as we’re constantly reminded of the separate and often contrary strands that render the whole.”
— Los Angeles Review of Books

“Laila Lalami is at the top of the list for 2014. Set in Florida, it’s the first-person narrative of a Moor whose Spanish master is part of an ill-fated expedition to the New World. Lalami writes some excellent historical fiction. The story vacillates between the Moor’s life before slavery in Morocco through his New World adventure. Best book of the year so far, IMO. The way the Moor’s account differs from the Spaniards is amazing.”
— Ebony Magazine

“History is written by the victors. Good thing for those left in the shadows of the official record, and for readers who enjoy alternative accounts, that a clever novelist can tweak it. In her meticulously researched and inventive historical novel The Moor’s Account, Moroccan-American author Laila Lalami retraces the remarkable true-life trajectory of Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori, aka Estebanico.”
— Seattle Times

“Lalami’s novel is historical fiction of the first-order, a gripping tale of Spanish exploration in the New World set in the years 1527 to 1536, as told by a Muslim slave. This is a colorful but grim tale of Spanish exploration and conquest, marked by brutality, violence, and indifference to the suffering of native peoples.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred)

“It is said that truth is often stranger than fiction, but what happens when truth can only be found in the pages of fiction? Readers of Laila Lalami’s latest novel, The Moor’s Account, may find themselves asking exactly that question, as fact and fantasy coalesce in a masterful story that shines a new light on one of the darkest eras of history.”
— BookPage

“Estebanico’s account alternates between this disastrous mission and his past as a merchant, with the two threads combining to create a deeply layered, complex portrait of all-too-familiar characters in an unfamiliar world. The result is a totally engrossing and captivating novel that reconsiders the overlooked roles of Africans in New World exploration.”
— Booklist

“Lalami’s meticulously researched yet extraordinarily readable account of the first black man to explore the New World… offers readers a marvelous piece of old-fashioned storytelling rife with contemporary themes, from greed and plunder to cross-cultural understanding and assimilation.”
— Library Journal

“Lalami artfully conveys the politics and power dynamics of bondage…eloquently examines the subjectivity of narrative and the creation and manipulation of the truth. With this magnificent novel, Lalami, through fiction, has penned a revelation and tribute to truth.”
— The Millions

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