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The Moor's Account

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  3,830 Ratings  ·  623 Reviews

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 c
Hardcover, 321 pages
Published September 9th 2014 by Pantheon (first published September 1st 2014)
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Apr 01, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
1 slave...a black Arab Moor, 'Mustafa/Estebanico', and three Castilians are the only
survivors from the Narvaez's Expedition from Spain to the gulf of Florida.

The story shifts from an expedition of the territory - to- self-exploring-- (men facing their humanity). This is such a fantastic book which allows you to feel as if you are one of the survivors.
There is less focus on searching for gold and conquering land after almost 600 people have died. With only 4 surviving men, they were forced to r
Nov 29, 2015 Dianne rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
Very interesting and well done historical fiction account of the Spanish Narváez expedition of 1527 that was sent to colonize Florida. Upon sailing into the Tampa area, Narváez (the commander of the armada) split his contingent in two, with half staying in the gulf with the ships and the other half heading north on foot to look for a rich kingdom called Apalache, which supposedly had great quantities of gold and other precious metals. 300 officers, soldiers, friars and settlers set off, only to ...more
Nov 07, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
In Cabeza de Vaca’s account of his epic adventures as part of the ill-fated Narváez Expedition, the Spanish explorer devotes only a single line to Estevanico, one of the four survivors, along with de Vaca:

El cuarto se llama Estevanico, es negro alárabe, natural de Azamor.

Roughly translated, it reads: “The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor.”

According to Laila Lalami, this is all we know about Estebanico (as she spells it); just a handful of unadorned words.

That is n
Cathrine ☯
Aug 05, 2016 Cathrine ☯ rated it really liked it
In 1527 ships with six hundred men sailed from Castile across the Ocean of Fog and Darkness with the goal to claim the land and riches of present day Florida and the gulf coast areas of the United States. They were searching for a kingdom of gold but encountered instead, hurricanes, shipwreck, starvation, disease, alligators, murder, cannibalism, and mutiny, while decisively squandering any opportunity to endear indigenous tribes to their cause. Only four would make it out alive.
Their conque
Sep 01, 2015 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Oh dear, I seem stuck in the doldrums a bit - not really passionately engaging with any books recently (except maybe A Little Life, and I'm still not sure whether that engagement was healthy).

Lalami has great raw material for her historical fiction about Estebanico, the first African to explore the Americas (or at least the first so recorded!). Or perhaps I should say she has a great seed - because apparently almost nothing is known about the historical Estebanico, other than that he was a Berbe
I was looking forward to reading this book when I first heard that Laila Lalami would write a fictionalized account of Estebanico as I knew she would provide the necessary insight on Morocco and a Moroccan point-of-view of the 1500s. This book exceeded my expectations. There are many accounts of the Narvaez expedition and what happened in the years 1527 – 1536, when the four survivors (out of 600) were reunited with other Spaniards. Among the survivors was a Moroccan slave known in the accounts ...more
Jan 29, 2016 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Ingenious piece of historical fiction, though I'm taking liberties with the word 'historical'. Recreation of the life of a slave who accompanied a doomed Spanish expedition from Florida through Texas and Mexico, across rivers and plains whose names would all be usurped by Spanish ones. It's a picaresque, retold from margins and with the tint of a new perspective. The slave Estebanico, who gets only one line confirming his existence in the Spanish testimony, tells the story of his life in ...more
When people speak of history, particularly when they speak of history's most horrific sections, they often take a tone of almost moral relativism. Last week my brother got married, and when an older relative refused to go partially because my new sister in law is Latina, and partially because after this relative posted multiple comments against the protests in Ferguson and against laws providing amnesty to immigrants, he and my brother clashed. There were a lot of people at the reception who ...more
Waheed Rabbani
Dec 04, 2014 Waheed Rabbani rated it it was amazing
In 1527, conquistador Narváez sails from Spain for Florida with an armada of 600 men. His objective is to capture that region for the Spanish crown and become rich and famous like Hernán Cortés. After landing, they decide to divide into two groups: one to sail along the coast to a port, and the other to march northwards onto native Indian lands. The inland unit encounters many hardships. They have to endure swamps, disease, starvation, and skirmishes with hostile Indians. With dwindling numbers ...more
Apr 06, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating historical fiction detailing one of the first encounters of Spain with the New World and told through the eyes of a slave. Heartbreaking yet hopefully. Beautiful yet brutal. Highly recommend this.
Matthew Quann
Dec 05, 2016 Matthew Quann rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
I worried that I had made a huge mistake with this audiobook in its first few minutes.

See, right off the bat, Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori’s verbose introduction to his account sets the stage for a historical fiction novel with really pretty prose. The rub: I’m relatively new to the audiobook scene, but the more interesting the writing, the more likely I am to want to read it rather than listen to it.

Audiobooks can have a tendency to slip into the background over long periods o
I realized with a start that I was once again living in a world where written records were synonymous with power.

The moor Mustafa, known to his Spanish slavers as Esteban or Estebanico, unhappy with the 'sterile' account given by fellow expeditioner Cabeza de Vaca, writes an account of the Narvaez exhibition to the New World. Estebanico is mentioned in only a line of De Vaca's account, however Lalami imagines a life before slavery for him, as well as his experiences in the Americas.

I wasn't
The Shayne-Train
Aug 22, 2016 The Shayne-Train rated it really liked it
This book was a pleasure to read. A first-person account from a Muslim slave, dragged over the ocean by his Spanish master, to explore North America.

I love stories about Native Americans, specifically during the period of time when they're first meeting the white interlopers that know. I also love survival tales. I also-also love fish-outta-dat-water tales. And I especially love tales told by non-Christians thrust into Christian life, all head-scratchy and "WTF?" over the
Vasco Simões
Oct 21, 2016 Vasco Simões rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
Obra muito bem documentada e escrita. O relato de Mustafa/Estebanico um mouro do século XVI que começa por ser um próspero comerciante mas por razões que não vou revelar (descubram no livro), acaba por ter de se vender e converter em escravo. As voltas da vida vão conduzi-lo a Espanha e às Américas no tempo dos descobrimentos. O Mouro que é cristão convertido acaba em explorador, sobrevivente, colono, médico, índio mas acima de tudo persegue a sua liberdade. Recomendo ler este livro ao som do ...more
In Cabeza de Vaca's actual telling of their exploration there is only one line: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor." Nothing more is known about the first black explorer of America. Laila Lalami brings to life his imagined account in this beautiful piece of historical fiction.

The Moor's Account is a page-turner filled with adventure, observation, and lovely prose. Personally, it had it all for me. This is a book that is weighty in importance and meaning, but packed
Jan 26, 2016 Jennifer rated it liked it
This was a history that I really haven't learned that much about. Unless I go back to 3rd grade in Florida and it was all about Ponce' de Leon. At least that is what I remember. This is not about Ponce'. Just a different story about a different expedition to Florida, as they did back in the 15oo's or so.

I enjoyed the viewpoint of the Moor. I feel that I understood him. I enjoyed his story. I thought the subject of slavery was taken honestly. How do we keep treating our fellow humans like this ?
Feb 24, 2015 Jane rated it really liked it
From one sentence in the writings of Cabeza de Vaca, an early explorer of Florida, the author has fashioned this engrossing, sympathetic novel of memoirs of the Moroccan slave, Estabanico. As he himself explains, they are to correct the sanitized version of this expedition to Florida sent back to the king of Spain. Estabanico [originally Mustafa] and his family in North Africa, fall upon hard times and the young man sells himself into slavery and gives the proceeds from the sale to his brother. ...more
I 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.
I've joked before about wannabe authors hefting up the largest book of history they can get their grimy hands on, dropping it, and writing a 300-400 page novel about whatever flips open that hasn't already been done to death. A loophole to the last bit is if the particular span of years have been done to death but were only done so in a few comb
Sep 21, 2016 jo rated it it was amazing
the sweetest, most lovely thing of this book is the voice of mustafa/estebanico, the narrator, who goes through hell and back but never loses faith, compassion and grace. he's the magnificent moral center of this novel, what makes reading it, in spite of its horrors, tolerable and moving. all books about horror need the tenderness of a voice like estebanico's. we cannot endure horror without a virgil walking us through it. estabenanico has the gentleness and moral gravitas of virgil.

and you may
أشرف فقيه
Jun 26, 2016 أشرف فقيه rated it really liked it
لا شك بأن تقاطع سقوط الأندلس مع اكتشاف العالم الجديد (أميركا) على يد الإسبان محرض على ابتكار حبكات مدهشة. وقد برعت ليلى العلمي هنا في خلق قصة يرويها المملوك الأندلسي مناقضاً التاريخ الذي اختلقه سادته القشتاليون لرحلتهم المدهشة في أراضي فلوريدا وما تحتها.. وكل واحدة من تلكم التفاصيل تكشف مقدار الدهشة التي تحملها الرواية.

لكن هذه أكثر من سردية تاريخية للأحداث. وإذا كانت ليلى العلمي تتكيء على صدفة تاريخية مدهشة، فإنها تستخدمها لتقارب أزمة دائمة؛ من الحاكم ومن المحكوم؟ السيد والتابع؟ وكيف يتقلبان بتق
Jun 23, 2016 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
I was really struck by the fluidity of positions between each person and his role. Mustafa as a free man growing up in Morocco, then as a merchant trading ruthlessly (including slaves), then his new identity as a slave in Portugal and later in an unfamiliar land, then as one of four survivors, where his survivor status negated his slave status since survival slowly grew more important than the idea of property. The same with Dorantes, it was fascinating to see his relationship with each of the ...more
Nancy Oakes
Sep 16, 2015 Nancy Oakes rated it liked it
mixed reaction. read on. a 3.2 or thereabouts.

In this book, the author takes up the story of the 1527 expedition to "La Florida," the next potential jewel in the crown of Spanish King Charles I. The mission to claim this area was given to Pánfilo de Narváez; also on the expedition was Álvar Núňez Cabeza de Vaca whose account, Naufragios, is available widely in translation. The expedition, of course, is historical fact as is the presence of the titular "Moor," a slave named Estebanico, a Muslim A
This was a dazzling, well-written account of a fictional Spanish expedition to explore the Native American lands to search for gold during the 1500s, told through the eyes of Muhammad, or "Estebanico", the black slave of one of the men. It is detailed, sad in places, and full of excitement. It shows both the Spanish conquistadors and the native Indians in not the best of lights, and it's interesting because everything here could have happened in real life - none of it is outside the realm of ...more
Μαρία Γεωργιάδου
Το βιβλίο που με έβγαλε από το αναγνωστικό μου μπλοκάρισμα και ένα πολύ καλό παράδειγμα για το πώς μπορεί κανείς να μάθει ιστορία μέσα από τη λογοτεχνία.
Nov 02, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
In the US, we’ve learned about the colonization of America, from the European point of view, and more recently, learning about the Native American side of the story. Laila Lalami’s novel tells the story through the eyes of a third party bystander, Mustafa, a Moor, who voluntarily sold himself into slavery to the Spaniards to provide for his starving family. The story takes you from the markets of Morocco, to Spain, across the Atlantic to the colony of Florida. On a doomed expedition, Mustafa – ...more
Jaclyn Day
Aug 07, 2015 Jaclyn Day rated it really liked it
I loved this rich imagining of Mustafa’s life–especially since the real Mustafa was only mentioned once in a throwaway sentence in the documented accounts of the journey. Historical fiction can err on the side of indulgence (Philippa Gregory) or pseudo-accuracy that can seem dry to the casual reader (Michael Shaara, and I love The Killer Angels), but this book smartly avoids either of those extremes. The story is suspenseful and fascinating, and the flashbacks to Mustafa’s life before becoming a ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Yaaresse marked it as abandoned-dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Maybe I should start a shelf titled "It's not you, it's me" or "maybe another time, another mindset."

This is the (fictional) memoir of a slave to a Spanish explorer and his years in the New World (present day Florida and Mexico), written to "set the record straight" for his unborn children. Adventure in a unusual time from an unusual (read: not white) POV had potential, but I found myself skimming through, looking for something to hold my interest. Also, the author's decision to not use quotati
Sep 06, 2015 C rated it liked it
The Moor's Odyssey is realistic, not mythic. Thus while Homer had wide latitude to create various characters and the land they inhabit that are memorable and archetypal, Lalami's are flat and homogeneous, making it tedious to distinguish one from another. I bet this book will not win the Booker nor the Pulitzer.
No Name
Dec 08, 2016 No Name rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to No Name by: Man Booker Longlist 2015
I started this book feeling quite frustrated. This story is based on historical events yet there was no proper explanation of "who" and "what". Even the summary on the back of the paperback was extremely vague and offered no real details. I was forced to do my own research so I can put this story in the proper historical framework in my mind. Furthermore, there were no maps included which I believe is kinda important in a book like this.

 photo 1280px-Expedition_Cabeza_de_Vaca_Karte_zpswvfzuabv.png
The Narvaez Expedition 1527-1536

So in case others find th
Nov 30, 2016 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This brutal yet beguiling novel falls into that delightful genre of historical gap-filling. It is the story of Mustafa, an enslaved Moroccan who ended up on Spanish expedition to what would become Florida. The three hundred strong expedition arrived in 1527, but only four members of it ever returned to Spanish-controlled lands. Three were Spanish and their official accounts are documented. Mustafa, renamed Estebanico when enslaved, was the fourth and nothing is known of him except the city he ...more
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Laila Lalami was born and raised in Morocco. She is the author of the short story collection Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and the novel Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in numerous antho ...more
More about Laila Lalami...

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“A name is precious; it carries inside it a language, a history, a set of traditions, a particular way of looking at the world. Losing it meant losing my ties to all those things too.” 5 likes
“To overcome my fear, I shackled myself with hope, its links heavier than any metal known to man.” 5 likes
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