In an interview with National Public Radio, Laila Lalami mentioned that she believed the “closest we come to truth is in the form of fiction.”

Truth: the supernatural powers that be do not spare anyone based on race or religion. In shared adversity we all become equal.

Truth: humans are complex creatures, equally capable of cruelty, kindness, and unimaginable darkness in desperation. No one is purely hero or villain.

Truth: Mustafa, the titular character of Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account tells us what he knows as fact, but we must infer our own truth, so that each reader discovers his or her own connections to the story.

Personally, I understand Mustafa’s strong familial connections and his willingness to do anything for the people he loves. I understand his Portuguese master’s affection for his horse that runs much deeper than that for an animal merely used for transportation. And I feel Mustafa’s pain as a slave when he realizes that he never thought about the people he once sold until he joined their ranks. As I read The Moor’s Account as well as some of Lalami’s other essays and short stories, I realized the truth I was finding in all of her work was that an author needs to understand the complexities of people: the different struggles we face across the world, the love we can feel for so many people, and the blackest parts of our soul that we like to pretend do not exist. I am no longer in awe that The Moor’s Account won the American Book Award, but rather aghast that Laila Lalami did not win the Pulitzer for which the same novel was named a finalist. Only in the hands of a skilled storyteller can we as readers be suckerpunched by a revelation that touches our souls, and only in the hands of a skilled storyteller can these truths so deftly be presented, as Mustafa says, “in the guise of entertainment.” In other words, only in the hands of someone like Laila Lalami.



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