The Dragons - The Giant - The Women : A Memoir by Wayetu Moore.

A little girl runs outside her home in Monrovia, Liberia, during a rainstorm, thinking she hears her absent mother's voice, ''full of laughter and long ago.''

An ''Ol' Ma,'' an elder, explains to her that ''all of our dead and missing were resting peacefully in wandering clouds,'' telling us ''forgotten things'' through the rain.

But a 5-year-old Tutu's Mam isn't dead; she's in America, studying at Columbia University on a Fulbright scholarship. She calls on Sundays, and sends videotapes of ''The Wizard of Oz'' and ''The Sound of Music,'' the first time Tutu has seen white skin.

[''Why do they look like that?'' she asks her father. ''Like, sick''] Just a few weeks later, Tutu is singing along to ''The Sound of Music'' when a neighbor bangs on their den window. ''They coming! The war now come!''

Wayetu [Tutu] Moore's immersive exhilarating memoir, ''The Dragon, the Giant, the Women,'' is framed by her family's harrowing escape from that civil war which broke out in 1989, spanned 14 years and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands with millions more displaced.

The book comes two years after her debut novel, ''She Would Be King,'' a magical realist reimagining of Liberia's history, though her nonfiction also has elements of the fantastical. For nearly three weeks, Moore and her father, grandmother and two sisters walk along fields of sugar cane until they reach the village of Lai, where they can hide.

When Tutu asks why bodies are lying in the road [including.....''a family.....surrounded by a deep red color, their clothes scattered around them''] her father tells her they're sleeping, a make-believe that allows her to keep moving forward through visible atrocity.

Her father, Papa, is the titular ''giant'' protecting the family from rebels, the ''dragons'' chasing them. The ''women'' of the title are Mam and Satta, a teenage combatant Mam pays to to rescue her family, having returned to the region after the war broke out to find them.

''Such is the danger of deep love, however beautiful,'' Moore writes. ''Dying lingers close behind.''

This memoir adds an essential voice in the genre of migrant literature, challenging false popular narratives that migration is optional, permanent and often results in a better life, as described in Dohra Ahmad's ''The Penguin Book of Migration Literature.''

The Moore family lived a good life before the war, and after raising their children in America, in 2012, Tutu's parents returned to Liberia to resume it.

''Honestly, I had an experience in Texas that was more traumatic than the war,'' an adult Moore tells her therapist, who balks to response to America - where she sits at ''the Blackgirl table'' at school, where once ''I took too long get my candy bar and that store owner pushed my sister and called me that word'' - even the ''giant'' cannot shield her family from the injuries of white supremacy.

''In this new place,'' Moore writes, skin color was king - king above nationality, king above life stories, and yes, even king above Christ.''

''The Dragons, The Giant, the Women'' also resists the narrow-minded, gratuitously violent stereotypes of Africa that haunt Tutu during her school years in the West. Her description of Satta, for example, is so human that we see the child inside the child soldier.

Risking her life by leading the Moores across the border into Sierra Leone, Satta stops to address her fellow combatants, who believe she is transporting loyalists to rebel hands.

''As she walked away from the boys,'' Moore observes, ''they whistled at her.'' There is power to what is left unsaid.

Those starving right now for physical contact with loved ones outside their homes will find special resonance in Tutu's parents' eventual reunion in Sierra Leone, when ''they wiped each other's eyes and hugged for a long time......and there was no knowing where she began. And there was no telling where it ended.''

Likewise, separations in this book are written with equal intimacy, and heartbreak.

the book, jumping confidently across decades and continents and even narrative perspectives, closes with a section of such masterful danger and suspense that the reader is afraid for Moore's life, although we know the ending [here is her book in our hands]

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

The World Students Society thanks review author, Grace Talusan.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!