Reviews

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore

willal's review

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dark emotional reflective sad tense medium-paced

5.0

Intense story. Covers quite a scope of issues and shows how trauma can resonate for decades after. Also does a good job showing how young children both do and don't process trauma in real time. Really well written. Incredible family bond.

afanella's review against another edition

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4.0

A memoir that reads like a novel will always get my attention, and this book did not disappoint me. Ms. Moore tells this story from multiple perspectives seamlessly woven together. Interestingly, I found Ms. Moore's writing to be strongest when telling the story of her parents and grandparents, not herself. This book covers so many topics - war in Liberia, immigration, being Black in the United States, outsiders view of Africa - but you are so captivated by the story that you don't even realize its scope. Highly recommended.

sjgrodsky's review against another edition

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5.0

A story of resilience and persistence and love. The author was just five when she, her father, her grandmother, and two sisters fled Monrovia during the first Liberian civil war. The family makes it to the remote village of Lai, hiking on highways lined with bodies. “Why are those people lying on the ground?” asked the author. “They are sleeping,” answers her father, sparing his daughter the grim truth. It’s not clear if the author understood the reality then or twigged to it later.

The family (minus grandmother) refugees to Sierra Leone, then to Texas. Fast forward to the 2010s and the author is a student in New York City, adjusting to a society in which “everything’s about race.” There is a somewhat funny section in which the author, following her therapist’s advice to start dating again, scans Tinder. I am way past the age of dating apps, so it took me a while to figure out what the one-word sentences (“Left,” “Left,” “Right”) meant.

There is a confusing final section in which the point of view shifts without warning. Suddenly it’s not Wayetu who is speaking but her mother (“Mam”) who, like her daughter, is a student in New York. But it’s the early 1990s and Mam has left her husband and children (Wayetu and her sisters) in Liberia. When the Liberian Civil War breaks out she journeys back to Sierra Leone, makes her way to a town bordering Liberia, and hires a Liberian rebel soldier (“Satta”) to guide her family on the perilous (but successful) journey from Liberia to Sierra Leone.

These last chapters form the most interesting and suspenseful part of the book. Satta’s motivation for undertaking these rescues is unclear. Yes, it’s partly money. But Jallah, who connects Mam to Satta, has a sort of explanation: “Most fighters, they will do bad things, but not all of them are bad... if you pay her enough money, she will go and get your family for you.”

The author does not give much information on the first or second Liberian civil wars. She does include a half-sentence reference to a conference in Berlin.

So here is as much as I have been able to work out via reading in Wikipedia. The Berlin conference of 1884-5 was the conference of 14 European countries and the US, convened by Bismarck, the chancellor of Prussia. The conferees divided up the continent of Africa, deciding who would have colonies where. Not a single African attended. Belgium, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Italy were the big winners.

This utter ignorance led to countries composed of hostile tribes, while friendly tribes were separated. Hostile tribes were subjected to colonial rule. With independence came civil wars. People thought of themselves as members of a tribe, not citizens of a country. Bloody wars ensued as tribes reworked the balance of power.

alessiagua's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional informative reflective tense medium-paced

4.5

kinseyrubio's review against another edition

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5.0

A beautifully interwoven memoir that blurs childhood memories, time, and perspective.

bookofcinz's review against another edition

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4.0

Liberia went through its first Civil War from 1989 to 1966, during that period over 250,000 were killed and numerous families displaced and destroyed. The civil war was long and was devastating for many Liberians, including Wayteu Moore and her family. In The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir is Moore’s second novel and first memoir that details in a very rich and moving way how the Liberian Civil war affected the trajectory of her family and how their lives were changed.

The memoir opens on Wayetus Moore’s fifth birthday celebration. She is at home in Monrovia, Liberia with her siblings, father, grandmother and extended family. Her mother is not present for the celebrations because she is studying on a scholarship in New York. In the middle of the celebration war breaks out and the family is forced to flee without any warning. They leave on foot with a bag each, walking and hiding until their reached the village of Lai. The three week journey is grueling, heart breaking, and captured so vividly in Moore’s writing. The family arrives in Lai, and waiting their next move. Weeks into their stay at Lai a rebel solider shows up to let Wayetu know her mom sent for them family and she will be smuggling them across the border into Sierra Leone.
While a lot of the book surrounds Wayetu’s experience in the civil war, how being displaced affect her, how to this present day it still affects her- the book is also way more than that. It gives insights into mother-daughter relationship, living like an immigrant and what is it like for a black woman growing up in a country that doesn’t value the blackness of her skin.

I absolutely enjoyed this memoir. I read, loved and was blown away by Moore’s She Would Be King so I was super excited to see that she would be releasing a Memoir because I STAN! Nothing could prepare me for how beautiful this memoir was, I wanted sooooo much more. Moore’s writing is so personal, so unforgettable, so beautiful and deeply nuanced. To go through this trauma, I cannot being to imagine, but how Moore explored it in her memoir was beautiful.

You NEED to read this!

hrector's review

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emotional sad fast-paced

4.5

bookofcinz's review against another edition

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4.0

Liberia went through its first Civil War from 1989 to 1966, during that period over 250,000 were killed and numerous families displaced and destroyed. The civil war was long and was devastating for many Liberians, including Wayteu Moore and her family. In The Dragons, The Giant, The Women: A Memoir is Moore’s second novel and first memoir that details in a very rich and moving way how the Liberian Civil war affected the trajectory of her family and how their lives were changed.

The memoir opens on Wayetus Moore’s fifth birthday celebration. She is at home in Monrovia, Liberia with her siblings, father, grandmother and extended family. Her mother is not present for the celebrations because she is studying on a scholarship in New York. In the middle of the celebration war breaks out and the family is forced to flee without any warning. They leave on foot with a bag each, walking and hiding until their reached the village of Lai. The three week journey is grueling, heart breaking, and captured so vividly in Moore’s writing. The family arrives in Lai, and waiting their next move. Weeks into their stay at Lai a rebel solider shows up to let Wayetu know her mom sent for them family and she will be smuggling them across the border into Sierra Leone.
While a lot of the book surrounds Wayetu’s experience in the civil war, how being displaced affect her, how to this present day it still affects her- the book is also way more than that. It gives insights into mother-daughter relationship, living like an immigrant and what is it like for a black woman growing up in a country that doesn’t value the blackness of her skin.

I absolutely enjoyed this memoir. I read, loved and was blown away by Moore’s She Would Be King so I was super excited to see that she would be releasing a Memoir because I STAN! Nothing could prepare me for how beautiful this memoir was, I wanted sooooo much more. Moore’s writing is so personal, so unforgettable, so beautiful and deeply nuanced. To go through this trauma, I cannot being to imagine, but how Moore explored it in her memoir was beautiful.

You NEED to read this!

elizartemisbailey's review against another edition

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5.0

An amazing story lyrically told.

lindseyzank's review against another edition

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4.0

4.5