Wayétu Moore

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Wayétu Moore
Moore in November 2018
Moore in November 2018
Born1985 (age 33–34)
OccupationAuthor, publisher
ResidenceBrooklyn, New York, US
EducationNew York University, Howard University, University of Southern California
Alma materHoward University, BA; University of Southern California, MFA
GenresMagical realism
Notable worksShe Would Be King
SpouseBolobowei Amaso

Wayétu Moore (born 1985) is a Liberian-American author and social entrepreneur. Her debut novel, She Would Be King, was published by Graywolf Press in September 2018, and was positively reviewed by Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The New Yorker.[1][2][3] Moore has also published work in The Paris Review, Guernica Magazine, The Atlantic, and other journals.[4][5][6] In 2011, Moore founded a publishing house and nonprofit organization, One Moore Book, which publishes and distributes books intended for children in countries underrepresented in literature.[7][8] One Moore Book has published books set in Liberia, Haiti, Brazil, and Guinea, donated thousands of books to children, and opened One Moore Bookstore, the first bookstore in Liberia carrying books primarily intended for recreational reading.[9]


Moore was born in 1985 in Liberia. She is one of five siblings.[10] She is of mixed Vai, Gola and Americo-Liberian ancestry. Her mother, Mamawa Freeman Moore, is professor of English and Founding Dean of Liberia Honors College at the University of Liberia.[11] Her father, Augustus Moore, is professor of engineering and Dean of The College of Engineering at the University of Liberia.[12]

When she was five years old, Moore's family fled their home in Monrovia to escape civil war.[2] Along with her father and sisters, Moore wandered for weeks in the forest, eventually finding shelter in her maternal grandmother's rural village. To protect the children from the horrors of the war, Moore's father and grandmother created a magical narrative for them in which gunshots were "dragons fighting" and dead bodies were "people sleeping on the road".[2][13] At the time, Moore's mother Mamawa was studying at Columbia University on a Fulbright scholarship, and had no news of her family's fate. Mamawa flew to Sierra Leone, where she eventually found a female fighter who was able to locate the rest of the family and bring them across the border. Subsequently, the Moore family moved to Houston, Texas.[9] There, Moore read and wrote prolifically, which she credits with helping her overcome the trauma she experienced during the war.[14]

Moore attended New York University's Tisch School of the Arts for theater, before transferring and obtaining her bachelor's degree in journalism from Howard University. She also holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern California. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York,[1] and teaches at John Jay College and Randolph College's[15] low-residency MFA program.[16] She is also pursuing a master's degree in anthropology at Columbia University.[13]

Moore cited Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, Isabelle Allende, Ben Okri and Salman Rushdie as inspirations. She has also credited Liberian poet Patricia Jabbeh Wesley as a literary inspiration.[17]

One Moore Book[edit]

One Moore Book, launched in 2011, is a publishing company and nonprofit founded by Moore and her siblings to provide culturally relevant books to children who are underrepresented in literature and live in countries with low literacy rates.[8] "The goal of the company is to provide books to children who rarely see themselves in books. Our books also serve the dual purpose of giving children here a glimpse of countries they may never have an opportunity to visit," Moore said in an interview.[17] The initial books were written by Wayétu and her sister Wiande, and illustrated by her sister Kula and brother Augustus. These books served as a pilot series for the organization's model. One Moore Book later collaborated on a series of books with Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat. They currently publish twenty-three titles, including books set in Liberia, Haiti, Brazil, and Guinea.[2] One Moore Book sells books as well as distributing thousands of free books to children in target countries.[7] Some of their titles are distributed through Scholastic Book Clubs.

One Moore Book opened a bookstore called One Moore Bookstore in Monrovia in May 2015. It is the first bookstore in Liberia dedicated to selling recreational literature, and also allows visitors to read in the store.[9][18]

She Would Be King[edit]

Wayétu Moore attends a reading of She Would Be King at the U.S. embassy in Monrovia with Ambassador Christine A. Elder.

Moore's 2018 debut novel, She Would Be King, is set early in Liberia's history and is an example of magical realism, featuring protagonists with superhuman abilities. The novel received largely positive reviews. "Reading Wayétu Moore's debut novel, She Would Be King (Graywolf Press), feels a lot like watching a superb athlete's performance," Bethanne Patrick wrote in Time Magazine.[1] Lovia Gyarkye wrote in the New York Times:

She Would Be King is an ambitious and expansive novel that explores the nuances of Liberian history...Ms. Moore skillfully reconsiders the idealism of the early African-American settlers through their interactions with the indigenous peoples and braids together intimate story lines centered around universal themes: falling in love, defying familial expectations and the difficulties of doing the right thing.[2]

A brief review in The New Yorker stated: "The force and the symbolism of myth pervade Moore's engrossing tale."[3]

The novel was chosen by Sarah Jessica Parker as the fifth American Library Association Book Club Central pick in 2018.[19]

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women[edit]

The Dragons, The Giant, The Women is Moore's memoir, expected to be published by Graywolf Press in June 2020. The book will describe Moore's childhood experiences during the Liberian Civil War.[13] As in She Would Be King, the story will be told using magical realism, exploring the fantasy narrative that her father and grandmother created to shield Moore and her siblings from the war.[13]

In an interview, Moore said of her forthcoming book:

maybe [it will] give a new perspective to the African war story that isn't about some aid worker who came in and saved us, and we weren't in a refugee camp. This was my dad doing what he could to make sure we were safe, my mom risking everything to go back, and this network of women soldiers that created a business trafficking people's families out of the country when no one was allowed out of the country at the time.[13]


Source: [20]

  • She Would Be King (novel)
  • The Dragons, The Giant, The Women (memoir, expected June 2020)[13]

Children's Books:

  • 1 Peking
  • A Gift for Yole
  • I Love Liberia
  • J is for Jollof Rice
  • Jamonghoie (written with Wiande Moore-Everett based on a story by Jassie Senwah-Freeman)[21]
  • Kukujumuku


  1. ^ a b c Patrick, Bethanne (2018-09-13). "Wayétu Moore's Debut Novel She Would Be King Finds Power in Africa". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gyarkye, Lovia (2018-09-22). "In Wayétu Moore's Ambitious Debut Novel, Liberia Is Reborn". New York Times. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  3. ^ a b "Briefly Noted: "She Would Be King," "The Distance Home," "The Strange Case of Dr. Couney," and "Life: A Critical User's Manual."". The New Yorker. 2018-10-22. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  4. ^ Moore, Wayétu (2015-01-14). "The Evolution of Bernice". Guernica. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  5. ^ Moore, Wayétu (2018). "Gbessa". The Paris Review. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  6. ^ Moore, Wayétu (2012-12-13). "How the Africans Became Black". The Atlantic.
  7. ^ a b Nicole, Alaina (2017-03-17). "How publisher Wayetu Moore is writing the pages to her own girl boss story". Rolling Out. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  8. ^ a b Holley, Sakita (2012-03-16). "How She Built It: Wayetu Moore, Publisher & CEO of One Moore Book". Madame Noire. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  9. ^ a b c Clarke, Prue (2016-01-30). "Once a refugee, she's opened one of Liberia's few bookstores, where children can read about themselves". PRI. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  10. ^ "Girl stories". The Economist. 2011-03-29. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  11. ^ "Honors Program, University of Liberia". Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  12. ^ "College of Engineering, University of Liberia". Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Wang, Kimberly. "Wayetu Moore on How Love and Liberia Shaped Her Debut Novel". Naira NYC. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  14. ^ Osman, Hanan (2017-03-06). "Wayétu Moore". Okay Africa. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  16. ^ Clark, Juliana (2018-09-11). "The Story of Liberia: An Interview with Wayétu Moore". Columbia Journal. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  17. ^ a b Philpott, Lily (2018-11-29). "On History, Self-Censorship, and Bravery: A PEN Ten Interview with Wayétu Moore". PEN America. Retrieved 2019-01-07.
  18. ^ Oulton, Emma (2015-10-01). "A Bookstore Opening In Liberia Is A Great Step Forward For Global Literacy". Bustle. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  19. ^ "SJP Past Picks". Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  20. ^ "Wayetu Moore Books". ThriftBooks.com.
  21. ^ "Jamonghoie by Wayetu Moore". FantasticFiction.com.