Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Moor's Account” as Want to Read:
The Moor's Account
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Moor's Account

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  10,162 ratings  ·  1,416 reviews
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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Published July 30th 2015 by Periscope (first published September 1st 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,162 ratings  ·  1,416 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Moor's Account
Mustafa ibn Muhammad is about to discover how fragile are the threads that tie together the fabric of our lives.

The year is 1527, and this once wealthy Moroccan trader has sold himself to a Spanish captain in order that his family may eat. There's a certain irony about this, as Mustafa had been involved in the slave trade himself before his life collapsed around him. That same year the conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez, together with 600 crew, sailed for what is now known as the Gulf Coast in the
Elyse  Walters
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Cathrine ☯️
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 con
Aug 16, 2015 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
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heidi The Reader
The Moor's Account is a historical fiction novel about Pánfilo de Narváez's expedition into the land that would eventually be called Florida.

This tale is told from the point of view of a slave named Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico by the Spanish man who owned him.

"This book is the humble work of Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori, being a true account of his life and travels from the city of Azemmur to the Land of the Indians, where he arrived as a slave and, in his attempt to re
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To his Spanish masters he was always known as Estebanico, a diminutive form of the name Esteban. Yet his name was Mustafa ibn Muhammad ibn Abdussalam al-Zamori and he is the one telling this tale of attempted conquest and enrichment gone wrong.

"I had put my life in the hands of others and now here I was, at the edge of the known world, lost and afraid. All along, I had told myself that I did not have a choice, that I had been the one to put myself into bondage and I had to accept this fate. Some
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-books-ever
My next read is well underway, but I am still thinking about this brilliant novel, which I finished a week ago. I got so much more than I planned for. I read a library copy and am planning to buy a copy for my bookshelf. I hope to find time to pull together a review for this one within the next week or so...
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
Michael Finocchiaro
The Moor's Account nearly beat the lacklustre All the Light We Cannot See in 2015 and it must have been a mediocre year because I was not blown away by Laila Lalami's historical fiction account of the ill-fated Navaez expedition. I thought the narrator was always a bit too naïve, too good, too perfect. The Castilians were reprehensible as one would expect all the way to the end. I don't know, I mean, the idea was original, the format interesting, but I guess I have been spoiled by the writing of ...more
Matt Quann
Sep 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily Coffee and Commentary
An incredibly interesting and informative saga of exploration and perseverance in the new world. Told in lyrical and honest tones, we see our narrator transition from an enslaved former merchant to an explorer, a healer, and finally, a free man who finds love. This story was not only beautiful, but incredibly relevant as it sheds light on a seldom learned part of history. Recommended.
da AL
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal - well written, insightful, thoroughly researched. The audio reader was stupendous as well - aside from a few misprounounced words, he did an amazing job portraying the numerous characters.
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[4+ stars] A riveting, action-packed tale based on the Narváez expedition from Spain to the Americas in the early 1500s. The storyteller is "The Moor" who gives his account of their adventures and his life before slavery.

I read in Lalami's acknowledgments that the novel was inspired by one line in Cabeza de Vaca's chronicles of the expedition: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevancico, an Arab Negro from Azamor." Very well done.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
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
Waheed Rabbani
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Well that was very different than what I expected. I was thinking it would be more biblical...as in the wise men and Israel/Africa etc. Hmmm probably should have read the summary:
"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. [sic] Within a year there were only four survivors..."

In retrospect, it's good that I didn't read the summary or else I might not have picked it up. Historical fict
Joy D
“It was slowly dawning upon all of us that Apalache had no gold and there would be no glory. My fantasies of victory for my master and freedom for me had turned so completely awry that, for a moment, all my senses felt numb. I was rooted in my spot, unable to move, and my eyesight blurred. I thought about that night, long ago in Azemmur, when I had agreed to sell my life for a bit of gold. My father and my mother had both warned me about the danger of putting a price on everything, but I had not ...more
Nov 10, 2015 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.
Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book gave me a different perspective on the colonization of Mexico and the Spanish influence in Florida. I have enrolled in courses that focused on Cortes, his experiences in Mexico, and the Aztecs. I've also read Aztec by Gary Jennings, although that was many years ago.
I've always been fascinated with this part of history and The Moor's Account offered me a new version of the account of colonialism in Mexico and parts of the U.S. The Moorish/African influence has obviously been ov
Cherisa B
Spanish explorers bungling their way around the new world as seen through the eyes of a moorish african who sold himself into bondage to escape hunger and his responsibilities to his family. Based on "true history", Lalami makes it clear that testimony given by the explorers always had agendas that didn't reflect reality too closely, so much of this is fiction, aside from the narrator. Many of the themes are familiar - native tribes mostly good living with nature harmoniously, colonial europeans ...more
Nancy Oakes
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
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, historical
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 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 eventually...well...you 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
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami is a fictional account loosely based on the 1527 expedition from Spain to Florida of conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez. The goal was to conquer land, claim it for Spain, subdue the indigenous population, and find gold. The story is told in the voice of one of the four survivors of the expedition, Mustafa/Estebanico, a Moroccan who sold himself into slavery to provide for his destitute mother and siblings.

The first part of the novel consists of chapters in the al
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 co
Wilhelmina Jenkins
Maybe 4 1/2 stars. I enjoyed this book tremendously. It tells the story of a real historical figure - Mustafa al-Zamori, known as Estebanico. an enslaved Moroccan who was brought to America with a group of Spanish explorers in 1527. Lalami's fictional account of his experiences in the New World and his interactions with both the Spanish explorers and with the Native Americans he encounters make a fascinating story. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf
  • Harlem Shuffle
  • Matrix
  • Pillars of Salt
  • Zuurstofschuld
  • The Woman Who Lost Her Soul
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land
  • If I Ever Get Out of Here
  • Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World
  • The Female American; Or, the Adventures of Unca Eliza Winkfield
  • De terugkeer
  • Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España I
  • Travels in a Dervish Cloak
  • Can the Subaltern Speak?: Reflections on the History of an Idea
  • Homos Deus from Noah Harari : The Summary
  • The Lincoln Highway
  • De Genesissleutel
  • Amiri Baraka/Leroi Jones: The Quest for a "Populist Modernism"
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor's Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and The Other Americans, which was a national bestseller and a finalist for the National ...more

Related Articles

As serious bookworms know, autumn reading is particularly rewarding. The days get shorter, the air gets cooler, and curling up with a...
442 likes · 193 comments
“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.” 21 likes
“No lies are more seductive than the ones we use to console ourselves.” 18 likes
More quotes…