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The Folger Spotlight

Words, Words, Words: ‘The Moor’s Account’

The Folger’s virtual book club, Words, Words, Words returns for 2021 on Thursday, February 4 with a discussion of Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account. To get ready for the conversation, we’ve compiled some introductory information on this Pulitzer Prize-finalist.

What is The Moor’s Account about?

Cover of The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

In these pages, Laila Lalami brings us the imagined memoirs of the first Black explorer of America: Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico. The slave of a Spanish conquistador, Estebanico sails for the Americas with his master, Dorantes, as part of a danger-laden expedition to Florida. Within a year, Estebanico is one of only four crew members to survive.

As he journeys across America with his Spanish companions, the Old World roles of slave and master fall away, and Estebanico remakes himself as an equal, a healer, and a remarkable storyteller. His tale illuminates the ways in which our narratives can transmigrate into history—and how storytelling can offer a chance at redemption and survival.


Critical Reception

“Stunning…The Moor’s Account sheds light on all of the possible the New World exploration stories that didn’t make history.” —Huffington Post

The Moor’s Account is more than a good story, it’s a great one: rich, vivid and gripping; a thoughtful investigation into how we frame the narratives of our own lives.” —Guardian

“Adding a new spin to a familiar story, Lalami offers an utterly believable, entertainingly told alternative to the historical record. A delight.” —Kirkus Reviews

The Moor’s Account won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

About the author: Laila Lalami

A light-skinned woman with dark hair in a sleeveless black top standing front of greeneryLaila 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. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington PostThe NationHarper’s, the Guardian, and the New York Times. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. She lives in Los Angeles. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens, was published by Pantheon in September 2020.

Meet our Bookshop Partner: Duende District

Logo for Duende District, two red D's in a circle on a yellow background

This month we are excited to partner with Duende District, a bookstore for and by people of color, where all are welcome.

Duende District is a boutique pop-up bookstore that specializes in the best new adult and children’s books by Black and brown authors in English and Spanish, with locations in Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

You can find them online at and at

Shakespeare bust with glassesStay tuned for additional Folger resources to enrich the conversation.