She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

“The girl with the biggest gift of us all. Life. If she was not a girl or if she was not a woman; if she was not a woman or if she was not a witch, she would be king.”

As we transition into winter, I find myself in need of more rest, solitude, and moments of introspection. A slowness takes over my days, and I crave books that are best read unhurried. Stories that beg to be savored and consumed with intention rather than devoured during a week-long beach vacation. She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore satisfied that craving and left a lasting impression that has me recommending it left and right this season. 

Magical realism mixes with historical fiction to create this marvelous story.

Thoroughly researched and incredibly empowering, She Would Be King is full of strong women and loveable outcasts who guide us through an enchanted retelling of Liberia’s formation in the mid-19th century. 

In a West African village called Lai, a woman gives birth on a day proclaimed by the village to be cursed. The baby girl, Gbessa, is born with the title of witch and is shunned by her community. Wild and passionate, Gbessa survives isolation, starvation, and even a deadly viper bite. 

On a plantation in Virginia, a baby boy is born from supernatural circumstances. June Dey spends his entire childhood hiding his unusual strength until he is forced to use it to escape an altercation with the overseer, forcing him to flee.

In Jamaica, a white British colonizer and a Maroon give birth to a boy, Norman Aragon, who can fade from sight when the Earth calls him. 

These three unforgettable characters are inexplicably drawn together by their desires for freedom and family, forming a bond that demonstrates to readers what it is to be accepted and seen as “good” by those who genuinely matter. I quickly became invested in this trio’s fate and was pulled further into the story’s soul, picking up bits of history along the way. 

This glimpse into Liberia’s formation was one of my favorite aspects of She Would Be King.

Before picking it up, I had no idea how spectacular this country’s history was. While speaking on how cathartic the writing experience was for her, Moore states, “Liberian history is a part of American history, but in my public-school history books, that history was either reduced to one sentence or altogether absent. So growing up and hearing my father tell stories about the country’s history and the experiment of bringing together black people from all over the world in what they hoped would be a sanctuary, and making peace with those who were already there, who had never left, was something that I knew I always wanted to unpackage through literature. I wanted to explore the marriage of the indigenous African, the African American and the Caribbean points of view.”

A spirited story of the African Diaspora, this novel also explores exile, belonging, resilience, found family, and freedom. She Would Be King brought me back to how reading felt as a child, when every story was a magical experience, creating wonder and deep understanding of things that seem far out of reach for a young mind. This powerful debut novel by Wayétu Moore gives voice to those who didn’t have one and inspires those who’ve yet to find theirs.

Winter Tea Elixer

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butterfly pea flower tea
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Fresh mint leaves, muddled
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Pinch of salt
  • Blueberries

Preparation:

  1. Prepare hot butterfly pea flower tea and add honey, lime, and salt while it’s still hot. Set aside to cool.
  2. Rim a decadent glass with honey and coconut sugar.
  3. Gently muddle the mint at the bottom of the glass and then place a large ice cube inside. (Sip Tip: Make the ice cube from butterfly pea flower tea)
  4. Pour cooled tea mixture over the ice cube.
  5. Top with frozen blueberries and sip away!
She Would Be King book next to winter tea elixir and white taper candle