Moor's Account - Laila Lalami
Finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer prize for fiction, this book is a fictional memoir of Estebanico, a Moroccan slave who survived the 16th Century Navaez expedition from Spain to Florida, accompanying Cabeza de Vaca. Selling himself into slavery in an attempt to save his family from starvation, he became one of only four survivors of the entire expedition, the first African explorer in the New World. This is a tale of endurance and survival, with shipwrecks, storms, disease, starvation and attacks from natives.
This book was fascinating, each chapter being a story in its own right. It raised issues about slavery and its repercussions; all the principal characters became slaves. Different cultures were described - Estebanico's home, Spain and Central America (present-day Mexico). Gold was the motivation of the conquerors, and we wondered why so much value was attached to a metal with little practical use. They unwittingly destroyed riches of the indigenous tribe. They seemed unconcerned about bringing diseases that killed some of the natives. Cannibalism happened, but it was assumed that it was only natives that did this. We thought about whether we would turn to cannibalism in extreme circumstances, and hoped we would never find out.
The Castillians didn’t change over the eight years. They kept Estebanico as a slave, even after he had shared equal status with them for a while, and had proved himself superior in terms of learning the native languages and communicating with the natives. They forsook their native wives and found others who were more socially acceptable.
Marks out of ten: ranged between 6 and 7.75.