Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore
Published by Pushkin Press on the 25th March 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A powerful and poignant memoir of survival and resistance by the critically acclaimed author of She Would Be King, about her family's dramatic escape from the Liberian Civil War, and how they were eventually reunited

My Ol' Ma says the best stories do not always end happily, but happiness will find its way in there somehow.

When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a party at home in Monrovia, Liberia. Yet all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, studying in faraway New York. Before they can be reunited, the Civil War breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking along dangerous roads to the relative safety of their ancestral village. Here they will hide until a remarkable rescue by a rebel soldier, who smuggles them across the border.

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women spans this heartbreaking journey into childhood, and Moore's years adjusting to life in the USA, where she discovers a new kind of danger, as a black woman and an immigrant. This is an unforgettable memoir of the search for home in the midst of political upheaval, and an intimate story about the tenacious power of love and family.

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women begins by showing us Liberia through the eyes of five-year-old Wayétu. I loved this first section the best because it is so vividly recollected and described, and Moore manages to perfectly capture a young child's understanding of the world around her. She weaves together imaginative ideas from the stories her grandmother tells and tries to use these images to make sense of the encroaching civil war chaos. The family's long trek to escape the fighting is heartbreaking as is Wayétu's longing for her absent mother. 

Moore then goes on to portray her experiences as a Blackgirl in Texas once her immediate family is given permission to immigrate to America, sadly having to leave her grandmother behind in Liberia. I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the culture shock the family went through. That they escaped at all, and were reunited with Wayétu's mother is miraculous. As Moore explains it though, possibly due to her youth at the time of their escape, her sense of dislocation from her homeland is more of an influence on her adult life than the trauma from which she is expected to suffer. 

I enjoyed reading this memoir, especially Moore's prose style which I felt suited the work well. She puts her ideas across in an accessible way which was useful for me particularly in understanding the complexities of Liberia's civil war. I am now keen to also read Moore's novel, She Would Be King.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Wayétu Moore / Biography and memoir / Books from Liberia

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