Wayétu Moore’s debut novel is here. The book, She Would Be King, a novel of magical realism and history, tell the story of Gbessa, June Day and Norman who despite been born at different places, are connected by destiny.
The novel, according to Liberian the author, came as a result of her desire to explore a period within her country’s vast history, while integrating her love for the magical realism genre.
“I chose to write about the period of time when the new republic was forming and various groups were settling in the country. The characters developed while trying to identify each of those groups, and the plot followed,” she said.
Gbessa, the novel’s protagonist, was banished from her home village of Lai after villagers accused her of being a witch due to the date of birth. And because of this, she was taking to the forest staved and left to die but survives due to her supernatural power (immortality).
And June Day, a slave born in Virginia with an unusual strength and strange conditions, has to flee Virginia for Liberia after a confrontation with the plantation administrator. Then comes Norman, a bi-racial Jamaican whose possesses the ability to become invisible, a gift he inherited from his mother.
“Gbessa did not use witchcraft, but she does, in fact, have supernatural powers. Writing a character like Gbessa with the gift of immortality was my way of writing Liberia’s story. She has been through so much as a nation and yet she has not died,” she said.
“As Liberian women and, for some, as black women in America, they do their best to function within hyper-patriarchal contexts and circumstances. They have all gotten very far, but I still grew up seeing their voices stifled, in both Liberia and America.
“The character Gbessa was and is an ode to these women, women who are often victims of historical erasure, women who hold their families, homes, and even their countries together without acknowledgment,” Moore said of the inspiration behind the novel.
Although seemingly lost but guided by their destiny, Gbessa, June Dey and Norman were able to overcome the oppression they experience and when they all finally meet in Monrovia, they use their gifts to help them salvage the tense relationship between the African American settlers and the indigenous tribes, as a new nation forms around them.
“I want readers to see the interconnectedness between various groups across the African diaspora. I believe in global black solidarity, and I hope readers experience what that could potentially look like by reading this book,” she added.
Moore, a graduate of Howard University and the University of Southern California, said the title She Would Be King is about the commentary on the strange relationship between a woman’s power and how it functions in male-dominated, male-centric contexts.
Moore, the founder of One Moore Book, a non-profit organization that publishes literary works for minority people, explained that she became obsessed with writing from a very young age.
“I grew up in a home where voracious reading and various other arts was encouraged. Literature was always present in my life, and I felt like I could engage with the world differently on the page than in real life,” Moore explained, adding: “I can make sense of the world on the page. I can analyze it, surrender to it and let it be, and/or reshape it. That intrigues me—the ability to play the role of an architect.