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An engrossing memoir of escaping the First Liberian Civil War and building a life in the United States. When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunio An engrossing memoir of escaping the First Liberian Civil War and building a life in the United States. When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking and hiding for three weeks until they arrive in the village of Lai. Finally, a rebel soldier smuggles them across the border to Sierra Leone, reuniting the family and setting them off on yet another journey, this time to the United States. Spanning this harrowing journey in Moore’s early childhood, her years adjusting to life in Texas as a black woman and an immigrant, and her eventual return to Liberia, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply moving story of the search for home in the midst of upheaval. Moore has a novelist’s eye for suspense and emotional depth, and this unforgettable memoir is full of imaginative, lyrical flights and lush prose. In capturing both the hazy magic and the stark realities of what is becoming an increasingly pervasive experience, Moore shines a light on the great political and personal forces that continue to affect many migrants around the world, and calls us all to acknowledge the tenacious power of love and family.


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An engrossing memoir of escaping the First Liberian Civil War and building a life in the United States. When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunio An engrossing memoir of escaping the First Liberian Civil War and building a life in the United States. When Wayétu Moore turns five years old, her father and grandmother throw her a big birthday party at their home in Monrovia, Liberia, but all she can think about is how much she misses her mother, who is working and studying in faraway New York. Before she gets the reunion her father promised her, war breaks out in Liberia. The family is forced to flee their home on foot, walking and hiding for three weeks until they arrive in the village of Lai. Finally, a rebel soldier smuggles them across the border to Sierra Leone, reuniting the family and setting them off on yet another journey, this time to the United States. Spanning this harrowing journey in Moore’s early childhood, her years adjusting to life in Texas as a black woman and an immigrant, and her eventual return to Liberia, The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply moving story of the search for home in the midst of upheaval. Moore has a novelist’s eye for suspense and emotional depth, and this unforgettable memoir is full of imaginative, lyrical flights and lush prose. In capturing both the hazy magic and the stark realities of what is becoming an increasingly pervasive experience, Moore shines a light on the great political and personal forces that continue to affect many migrants around the world, and calls us all to acknowledge the tenacious power of love and family.

30 review for The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    a moving memoir of immigrating to the United States, in the wake of the outbreak of the First Liberian Civil War. the prose is lyrical, and the structure’s breathtaking. Moore begins by recollecting her childhood memories of the war and forced migration, and ends by imagining how her mother, a grad student in America, experienced the conflict as an immigrant far removed from her family and country of origin. in the middle Moore recounts her coming of age in America and her adulthood quest to rec a moving memoir of immigrating to the United States, in the wake of the outbreak of the First Liberian Civil War. the prose is lyrical, and the structure’s breathtaking. Moore begins by recollecting her childhood memories of the war and forced migration, and ends by imagining how her mother, a grad student in America, experienced the conflict as an immigrant far removed from her family and country of origin. in the middle Moore recounts her coming of age in America and her adulthood quest to reconnect with her past and make sense of what happened during her childhood.

  2. 5 out of 5

    luce

    The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply heartfelt and lyrical memoir. Wayétu Moore's luminous prose conveys the horrors of the First Liberian Civil War through the uncomprehending eyes of a child. At the age five Moore 's existence is irrevocably altered. Her family is forced to flee their home in Monrovia. Her father tries to shield his daughters from the violence and death they encounter on the road to 'safety' (for example he tells them that the sound they keep hearing—gunfire—is made b The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is a deeply heartfelt and lyrical memoir. Wayétu Moore's luminous prose conveys the horrors of the First Liberian Civil War through the uncomprehending eyes of a child. At the age five Moore 's existence is irrevocably altered. Her family is forced to flee their home in Monrovia. Her father tries to shield his daughters from the violence and death they encounter on the road to 'safety' (for example he tells them that the sound they keep hearing—gunfire—is made by drums, or that the dead people on the ground are 'sleeping'). While Moore doesn't shy away from the bloodshed caused by this civil war, she renders these events as she experienced them, when she was not fully aware of what was truly happening. She weaves a fairy-tale of sorts, with dragons (those who played a prominent role in the civil war), a giant (her father, her protector), and the women (her mother, a young rebel girl) whose acts of bravery ensured the safety of Moore and her sisters. I was moved by the way in which Moore's family stayed united as their world crumbled. After Moore’s mother (who had been studying in New York and therefore was cut off from her husband and children after the war broke out) finds a rebel soldier who could smuggle them across the border to Sierra Leone, the Moore family move to America. In recounting her childhood Moore details the way in which she was made fully aware of her status of 'outsider' in America. Racism, colourism, a sense of disconnect towards a culture that treats you as other, all of these things make Moore feel like she doesn't belong. What she witnessed as a child too, haunts her. In search for answers she flies back to Liberia. The narrative shifts then to her mother's perspective and Moore perfectly captures a mother's voice. The Dragons, the Giant, the Women details Moore's painful and unresolved past. Yet, however sobering her story is, readers are bound to be dazzled by the lore that shapes her tale. Moore navigates the aftermath of Liberia's civil war, her family's migration to the U.S., her own relationship towards Liberia and her sense of displacement. This is a beautifully written and powerful story, one that recounts a family's arduous journey to safety, the separation and losses they experience, and the love and courage that brings them back together. LitHub has recently published an interview with Wayétu Moore in which she discusses this memoir: Wayétu Moore on What It Means to Tell “Our Story”. Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    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 open 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!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Nope, this was not for me. I didn't like the writing & found the structure rather messy. And it often felt as if the author didn't quite know what she wanted to say. Nope, this was not for me. I didn't like the writing & found the structure rather messy. And it often felt as if the author didn't quite know what she wanted to say.

  5. 5 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    ‘The Dragons, the Giant, the Women’ by Wayétu Moor is a memoir of the author’s escape from Liberia’s first terrible civil war of “dragons” - Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson - and about her life as a recovering immigrant in a racialized America. She has written a literary autobiography, so it isn’t a straightforwardly written story of remembrance but rather one of short-story-like, lyrical sketches. It’s structure is more like a literary novel with a timeline that jumps forward and ‘The Dragons, the Giant, the Women’ by Wayétu Moor is a memoir of the author’s escape from Liberia’s first terrible civil war of “dragons” - Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson - and about her life as a recovering immigrant in a racialized America. She has written a literary autobiography, so it isn’t a straightforwardly written story of remembrance but rather one of short-story-like, lyrical sketches. It’s structure is more like a literary novel with a timeline that jumps forward and back in time. The book is an amazing history of courage by both Wayétu’s parents and a teenage soldier woman who acted as a guide. The first narrator is the author, in a first-person voice as a little girl. She then jumps to her adult life as a college student in New York City. One part of the book is a third-person narration by Mam of what Mam, Wayétu’s mother, did to rescue her husband and children. Wayétu has a journey as well - one of coming to terms with her sorrow for losing the Liberia of her childhood and growing up as a foreigner in America. In 1990 the main Liberian city of Monrovia was invaded by Prince Johnson. Wayétu was five years old when she and her sisters, three-year-old K and Wi, six years old, went on a forced march on foot for three weeks through dangerous African country roads trying to avoid murderous teen soldiers high on drugs. She couldn’t understand what was happening, and her father protected her with gentle lies of misdirection. She was with her grandmother, Ol’ Ma, and her father, “the Giant”. They were escaping their house and the war in Monrovia, hoping to get to a Vai tribal village called Lai, Ol Ma’s original home before she married Ol’ Pa. Mam, their mother, was in America attending university. The walkathon journey was a nightmare for the author, and she needed to enter therapy for treatment of the nightmares. Her parents returned to Liberia after staying for a time in Texas, while Wayétu, an Americanized immigrant who was strange to both Black and White Americans, yearned to feel at home somewhere again as she did as a child in Liberia. She returns to Liberia to see her parents and to try to find the guide who had helped them. The book is safe to read for sensitive readers. She does not go into the politics or wars of Liberia. Those of you who are curious to read more, I have a Wikipedia link below. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_L... Since I remember reading the news stories of the Liberian civil wars in American newspapers when the wars were happening, I can add the information that these Liberian Dragon warlords were total monsters. No age was too young or human too weak to not be a toy for torture and abuse. Children fought in the armies of the warlords as soldiers. These children were kidnapped from the arms of village families and forced to do battle, murders and rapes while drunk or high. The author obviously does not want this story to be the one of her memoir. The author’s choosing to intentionally lean into a stylistically poetic, MFA-schooled literary version of her history did not engage me. However, I certainly wish her all the best. The sufferings of Liberians were enormous during those decades from which they have yet to recover.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jyotsna

    Actual Rating: 4.9 stars There is a weight that builds on shoulders when one leaves home. The longer a person stays away, the heavier the burden of displacement. Reduced to being refugees because of the Liberian civil war, the well-to-do Moore family is displaced and living under the fear of being killed by the rebel forces. The book is about their escape to safety. A very relevant book in today's times that talks about the tension surrounding the refugee crisis. The reason why it is not full 5 Actual Rating: 4.9 stars There is a weight that builds on shoulders when one leaves home. The longer a person stays away, the heavier the burden of displacement. Reduced to being refugees because of the Liberian civil war, the well-to-do Moore family is displaced and living under the fear of being killed by the rebel forces. The book is about their escape to safety. A very relevant book in today's times that talks about the tension surrounding the refugee crisis. The reason why it is not full 5 ⭐ is simply because of the chronological order of the book that can confuse readers or break the intense chain. Read for the Quarterfinals of the Booktube Prize 2021, this one made it to the Semifinals. Ranking - 2nd (out of 6 books) (For more insight, please watch the video on my YT channel)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    “And there is was. His colossal being. His words pulling thunder from the sky. “Thank you, Daddy,” I said, my lips trembling in the silence. “For everything.” This was an absolutely breathtaking read. The memoir opens with Moore looking back on her memories as a five year old - vivid sensory descriptions of food and sounds and smells, dialogue shared between her and her family, all work to situate the reader to view the civil war and this early period in Moore’s life through the childhood-lens it “And there is was. His colossal being. His words pulling thunder from the sky. “Thank you, Daddy,” I said, my lips trembling in the silence. “For everything.” This was an absolutely breathtaking read. The memoir opens with Moore looking back on her memories as a five year old - vivid sensory descriptions of food and sounds and smells, dialogue shared between her and her family, all work to situate the reader to view the civil war and this early period in Moore’s life through the childhood-lens it was experienced through. Moore shares her experiences growing up as Black woman and an immigrant in Texas, and later as an adult studying and working in New York City - the racism and upheavals, and the power that the women in her life vested in her and that she drew on when she needed that inner strength the most. There is much to be said about this wonderful narrative - one aspect of the structure that I found particularly effective was the jumps in linearity. It allowed Moore to explore her own journey back to Liberia to find more about the rebel soldier that helped her family escape Liberia during the civil war, while taking the reader back through her life experiences too. It was masterfully unfurled and really connected the reader with the narrative being told. The quote shared above was just one of many incredibly powerful reflections Moore shares about her parents, her father (the “giant” referred to in the title) in this instance. Can not recommend this one highly enough! Many thanks to Graywolf for a review copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ashmore

    This book reminded me a bit of Americanah. Set in Liberia instead of Nigeria, it traces her childhood during the Liberian civil war, coming of age in America, and return to her birth country as an adult. We learned about tribalism in Liberia. Tutu and her family flee their home on foot during Charles Taylor’s rebel army challenge to President Samuel Doe. This part was different because it was written through a child’s eyes (she was five when this happened). We also learned once her family escaped This book reminded me a bit of Americanah. Set in Liberia instead of Nigeria, it traces her childhood during the Liberian civil war, coming of age in America, and return to her birth country as an adult. We learned about tribalism in Liberia. Tutu and her family flee their home on foot during Charles Taylor’s rebel army challenge to President Samuel Doe. This part was different because it was written through a child’s eyes (she was five when this happened). We also learned once her family escaped how Tutu dealt with racism in America, but this was rather superficially addressed. By far the best part was the flashback climactic finale how their brave mother Mam was able to engineer a dramatic rescue of her family from wartorn Liberia. It was not as exquisitely written as Americanah (Chimamanda is a truly gifted writer) and it is a memoir instead of fiction. But West African women authors are awesome.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Simone

    I read She Would Be King at the start of the year and upon finishing it I immediately wanted to learn more about Wayetu Moore and her inspiration. When I learned that SWBK was partially inspired by Moore’s own experience fleeing Liberia during the civil war and that she had a memoir coming out surrounding these events I couldn’t wait to read it. The Dragons, The Giant , The Women is an incredible memoir and a beautiful display of storytelling. Moore possesses the unique ability to write nonfictio I read She Would Be King at the start of the year and upon finishing it I immediately wanted to learn more about Wayetu Moore and her inspiration. When I learned that SWBK was partially inspired by Moore’s own experience fleeing Liberia during the civil war and that she had a memoir coming out surrounding these events I couldn’t wait to read it. The Dragons, The Giant , The Women is an incredible memoir and a beautiful display of storytelling. Moore possesses the unique ability to write nonfiction in a way that reads like fiction and is immediately accessible to the reader. What I loved most about this memoir is the way that Moore writes from the perspective of herself at the age she experienced these events. Because of this there is a childlike wonder and innocence to the recounting which serves to further highlight the devastations of war. This memoir also addresses the topics of the strength of familia love, the personal & external forces affecting migrants and refugees, the experience of integrating into a new culture, the lasting effects of trauma, and the experience of being a Black women in a country that doesn’t value you. All of this was addressed with such poise and care. I highly recommend this memoir for all these reasons and many more.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Brian Wraight

    A deeply moving, lovingly crafted, and unique memoir. Moore makes some brilliant creative choices with structure, voice, and point of view.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Darkowaa

    4.5 stars Man... I didn't expect to cry at the end. Women are such essential beings. Liberian women in particular, are a special kind. May you be a Satta, in this world. *full review on africanbookaddict.com, soon. 4.5 stars Man... I didn't expect to cry at the end. Women are such essential beings. Liberian women in particular, are a special kind. May you be a Satta, in this world. *full review on africanbookaddict.com, soon.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    Skin color was king - king above nationality, king above life stories, and, yes, even king above Christ Moore's memoir is moving, beautiful yet heartbreaking. From Liberian Civil War to immigration to America, we are transported into her life and the author drives us through a journey filled with Liberian culture. I was able to feel the effect of war trauma during Moore's childhood on her adulthood; also the hardships and racism that Moore suffered while trying to blend in the American culture/ Skin color was king - king above nationality, king above life stories, and, yes, even king above Christ Moore's memoir is moving, beautiful yet heartbreaking. From Liberian Civil War to immigration to America, we are transported into her life and the author drives us through a journey filled with Liberian culture. I was able to feel the effect of war trauma during Moore's childhood on her adulthood; also the hardships and racism that Moore suffered while trying to blend in the American culture/society and adjust to a new life. Once she was comfortable with her foreign identity, she started to struggle with the Liberian heritage. The subject of race is thoroughly explored in this memoir, as well as themes of war, family strength, resilience, mother-daughter relationship, cultural identity and immigrant's life. The expressive and lavish language made her experiences so vivid that I could relate on a personal level. In addition, I was absorbed in a way that it felt like I was reading fiction. Read this memoir! [ I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Susan Henderson

    This memoir is not only a compelling story of a young girl fleeing civil war in Liberia, but it is also a work of art. Start with the title, the way young Wayétu, in part due to her father's desire to guard his children's innocence, experienced the war as a fairy tale, complete with dragons, a protective giant, and the thunder of drums as they ran. There is also a breathtaking level of thematic symmetry, both with the theme of running and also with the  search for the young rebel girl who helped This memoir is not only a compelling story of a young girl fleeing civil war in Liberia, but it is also a work of art. Start with the title, the way young Wayétu, in part due to her father's desire to guard his children's innocence, experienced the war as a fairy tale, complete with dragons, a protective giant, and the thunder of drums as they ran. There is also a breathtaking level of thematic symmetry, both with the theme of running and also with the  search for the young rebel girl who helped reunite her family. There is the boldness of risky but, ultimately, perfect choices--the author taking on her mother's voice to narrate a crucial piece of family history; the trust that adventures in dating earned their place in this book as much as war. And then there is the beauty of knowing which moments to capture, which moments to slow. I want so badly to quote the prose used to describe her father's reaction to a photo, but it is worth being surprised by the goosebumps of it. The Dragons, the Giant, the Women is an emotional, magical, and revolutionary story of a woman learning to own the fullness of her story, her history, and her power.  

  14. 5 out of 5

    Fanna

    June 2, 2020: A very happy release day to this! A deeply moving memoir of a black woman immigrant who escapes the Liberian Civil War and builds a life in the United States. Political themes that dip into power of family and love. Hoping to read it soon. June 2, 2020: A very happy release day to this! A deeply moving memoir of a black woman immigrant who escapes the Liberian Civil War and builds a life in the United States. Political themes that dip into power of family and love. Hoping to read it soon.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Becks

    I read this for the BookTube Prize 2021 Semifinals so I’ll share my rating and thoughts at the end of July!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Wendy P

    Easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Moore details her families escape from rebel forces in Liberia and her life in America. So much sadness but also so much strength amongst the Liberian people.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Emily Grace

    But there were things I went into the world not knowing. We did not talk about what to do when a boy was unkind, in words or actions, breaking my heart. I was lousy in the ways of healing. Mam had one true love in a country of women like her, whose sun took turns resting on their deep, dark skin. My true loves in our new country, by either inheritance or indoctrination, were taught that black women were the least among them. Loving me was an act of resistance, though many. did not know it. An But there were things I went into the world not knowing. We did not talk about what to do when a boy was unkind, in words or actions, breaking my heart. I was lousy in the ways of healing. Mam had one true love in a country of women like her, whose sun took turns resting on their deep, dark skin. My true loves in our new country, by either inheritance or indoctrination, were taught that black women were the least among them. Loving me was an act of resistance, though many. did not know it. And Mam could not understand this feeling, the heaviness of it, to be loved as resistance, as an exception to a rule. To fight to be seen in love throughout the resistance. This was my new country. I expected a moving story but was utterly blown away by the stunning prose and rich descriptive detail. Truly a beautiful book through and through. Memoirs are my favorite genre to read but also the hardest to review. Wayétu Moore's life, especially her early childhood, is as fascinating as it is appalling. Surrounded at such at young age by violence and upheaval and so little capacity to comprehend it. The writing structure was often malleable, shifting from part to part and bending to assist the themes. This was particularly effective in instilling the feelings of urgency and confusion in the reader. The author brilliantly executes the perspective of a small child adrift in a sea of violence. With allusion to Liberian folktales we can see how she as a child clung to familiar stories as a way to explain and understand her own new tumultuous position. I loved the inclusion of folktale in this memoir, in part because the folktales were new to me as a reader but also that it created a window through which you can see her own awe and terror at the world. Similarly, the parts of the book about her adulthood are written with honesty and frankness but also with the disorientation of an adult still grappling with a traumatic past and a present that continues to wound. Wayétu Moore, as a black woman and an immigrant to the United States gave me a perspective I have not often heard and was certainly educational to me, if also painful to hear how her experience has been so disparate from my own. On top of the author's use of structure, the prose throughout the entire book is just beautiful. The descriptions are sensory and unconventional, often combing things in metaphor I would never have associated but were nonetheless perfect for created a visceral reading experience. Of course, the story is worth reading in its own right. Wayétu has an incredible story to tell. One of family, loss, prejudice, love and war, in one's country and also within oneself. The Dragons, The Giant, The Women is a story of leaving, finding and returning home. An absolutely stunning book! Thank you to the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    "In the months after Mam left Liberia for New York, we talked to her every Sunday. She sounded the same to me then, though once or twice her voice disappeared while she spoke. I inhaled the heavy silence, hoping that some of her would seep through the phone so that I could lay my head against it." • Thoughts~ Not often is a first novel followed up with a memoir but Moore does a sensational job! • In The Dragons, The Giant, The Women Moore chronicles her families journey through escaping the Liberian "In the months after Mam left Liberia for New York, we talked to her every Sunday. She sounded the same to me then, though once or twice her voice disappeared while she spoke. I inhaled the heavy silence, hoping that some of her would seep through the phone so that I could lay my head against it." • Thoughts~ Not often is a first novel followed up with a memoir but Moore does a sensational job! • In The Dragons, The Giant, The Women Moore chronicles her families journey through escaping the Liberian Cival War to creating a life in America. Moore recounts her childhood in Liberia and in America. How at the tender age of five, living with her family, minus her mother, who she misses dearly is away in New York on a scholarship studying. War breaks out suddenly and they have to flee their home on foot. For three weeks they walk and hide until they reach the village of Lai. They wait there, figuring out their next move when a rebel soldier comes to them, telling them their mother has sent for them and they will be smuggled across the border. After they are across, Moore shares of life as a Black immigrant in America. How as an adult the aftermath of her harrowing childhood still lingers. This memoir is so rich, deep and moving. I absolutely loved it and look forward to rereading it! Moore is a talented writer. Her prose are stirring and beautiful. I highly reccomend this one! And I'm so glad @belletrist picked this for their July book everyone needs to read this! • Thank You to the publisher for sending me this book opinions are my own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    The author was five when a brutal civil war broke out in Liberia. She was living with her grandparents and two siblings. Her mother had traveled abroad for a college education in America. Liberia at the time of the war, was considered pretty well off in Africa and a place people went to find work. The war causes the family to flee to the Sierra Leone border to escape but the border is closed. They try to get word to Mam, their mother, in the USA to come rescue them. A very well written book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    I read a positive review of Wayétu Moore's memoir, The Dragons, The Giant, The Women, and I really wanted to support a local independent bookseller (I always do, but it was the beginning of the pandemic), so I bought this book, and finally read it. Moore, known as "Tutu" by her family, is Liberian; she's the same age as my youngest son, but has lived a very different life. She was born in 1985, and in 1990 the terrible civil war started, with Charles Taylor (such an unassuming name for such a mon I read a positive review of Wayétu Moore's memoir, The Dragons, The Giant, The Women, and I really wanted to support a local independent bookseller (I always do, but it was the beginning of the pandemic), so I bought this book, and finally read it. Moore, known as "Tutu" by her family, is Liberian; she's the same age as my youngest son, but has lived a very different life. She was born in 1985, and in 1990 the terrible civil war started, with Charles Taylor (such an unassuming name for such a monster) trying to wrest power from Samuel Doe, and forcing untold numbers of children into service, brutalizing them into subservience and then giving them weapons to do his bidding. Which was really terrible. It's impossible not to. understate it, or at least I believe this, as I've never experienced anything remotely similar. Moore's writing is not always easy to understand; in fact, about 1/3 of the way through I went back and re-read the first few chapters. I'm not sure I ever did fully understand the connection of Doe and Taylor with Hawa Undu, a mythological character, a dragon (I think), who young Tutu, only 5 years old when most of the events in the book took place, conflated in her mind. It was fairly confusing to me, and yet her story is so gripping, and she writes so well, that ultimately I didn't feel like I needed to understand it completely. Moore has two sisters; her mother has gone to New York, and we don't know why. Her father has charge of the children, who want to see "Mam," her mother, and the family seems to prevaricate, so you don't know what that was all about until near the end of the book. It's not the way I would have written it; it's almost as if Moore, or her editors, wanted to make it seem like fiction, where everything pulls together at the end, but it didn't really work very well for me until her story was told, because I was just confused by the omission (and really confused when the narration shifted from Tutu to her mother). And all that said . . . it's very, very good. I'd recommend it to anybody. And I'd be happy to loan it to any of my friends, but I think I want it back. I might read it again some time.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anika

    This memoir was absolutely stunning in its writing, chronicling the author's flight from her home at the age of 5 during the first Liberian Civil War and her later life in America. I had to do a little research to get the background on the civil war, as the memoir from that time has the perspective of a child and doesn't get into the who's and why's. I was impressed with the author's ability to distinctly write her child and adult times of life, and there's one chapter in particular in her child This memoir was absolutely stunning in its writing, chronicling the author's flight from her home at the age of 5 during the first Liberian Civil War and her later life in America. I had to do a little research to get the background on the civil war, as the memoir from that time has the perspective of a child and doesn't get into the who's and why's. I was impressed with the author's ability to distinctly write her child and adult times of life, and there's one chapter in particular in her child time that was so powerful in its childlike consciousness, it hit me in the heart. I can't imagine the terror of fleeing on foot for months, but her father, with 4, 5, and 6 year old daughters in tow, clearly did all he could to shelter them in the horror, and the author refers to people "sleeping" everywhere on the road. What was more striking was when the author goes to therapy as an adult and she tells her therapist that her trauma is not her time in Liberia and fleeing war, but her trauma is experienced in America in the country's every day racism that beats you down. It was a sad memoir, but the sacrifice and heroism of parents looking out for their children really got me, as well as the author's stunning writing and the commentary she had on life as a Black girl from Africa in America.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Wes F

    Civil war rages in Liberia as a father flees his hometown with 3 little daughters & his in-laws through the jungle. His wife--and the author's mother--is in the US studying in university with a Fulbright scholarship. This is memoir begins with the author at 5 years old, not completely understanding what is happening around here--"drums" are really gunfire; people "sleeping" all over the roads are dead people--killed by the violent rebels seeking to overthrow the powers that be (this was during t Civil war rages in Liberia as a father flees his hometown with 3 little daughters & his in-laws through the jungle. His wife--and the author's mother--is in the US studying in university with a Fulbright scholarship. This is memoir begins with the author at 5 years old, not completely understanding what is happening around here--"drums" are really gunfire; people "sleeping" all over the roads are dead people--killed by the violent rebels seeking to overthrow the powers that be (this was during the horribly violent years of Charles Taylor's ascendancy). I thought this was well-written & evocative about home, parents & grandparents, the power of stories/myths, as well as of Scripture, and of ethnic identity & racism. One section includes the perspective of the mother who is in her studies in the US when the civil war breaks out in Libera, catching her family in its tentacles. She returns to find her family--against all advice--hoping to rescue them out of the Liberian nightmare and to bring them to the US to be with her. Some pretty tense moments. Read on my Kindle; borrowed from the library.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mopewa

    The story of Moore's family escaping as Liberia's first civil war quite literally breaks out on their front steps is engrossing by itself but I also really enjoyed Moore's writing and the way she structured this book. She jumps forward in time mid-story to living in America and at first I found it super jarring but I think that's the point. She escapes civil war with her family to find herself dealing with growing up as a black woman in America. My favorite parts: - There's a part in the middle of The story of Moore's family escaping as Liberia's first civil war quite literally breaks out on their front steps is engrossing by itself but I also really enjoyed Moore's writing and the way she structured this book. She jumps forward in time mid-story to living in America and at first I found it super jarring but I think that's the point. She escapes civil war with her family to find herself dealing with growing up as a black woman in America. My favorite parts: - There's a part in the middle of the book where she's talking to a therapist about feeling guilty about being so affected by a breakup when she should feel grateful for surviving the war and having a happy childhood. The therapist replies that recognizing pain is not ungrateful and it almost made me cry. - There are a couple of chapters from her mother's perspective, as she returns to Liberia determined to find her family that she hasn't heard from in months. These parts actually made me cry - Her dad - Her Ol' Ma

  24. 5 out of 5

    Laura Hoffman Brauman

    4.5 stars. What a compelling and powerful memoir. It's broken up into sections - the time of the war, her first years in America as an immigrant in Texas, her time in NY, and her eventual return to Liberia. When Moore was 5, Liberia erupted in war and her family had to flee to a rural village. Her account of the revolt, through the eyes of a 5 year old child, is difficult - watching a child try to process gunfire, flights through fields, and bodies in the streets is heartbreaking. As the book mo 4.5 stars. What a compelling and powerful memoir. It's broken up into sections - the time of the war, her first years in America as an immigrant in Texas, her time in NY, and her eventual return to Liberia. When Moore was 5, Liberia erupted in war and her family had to flee to a rural village. Her account of the revolt, through the eyes of a 5 year old child, is difficult - watching a child try to process gunfire, flights through fields, and bodies in the streets is heartbreaking. As the book moves through the sections, each focusing on a different part of her experience, you see it portrayed through the perspective of someone at the age she was when she was having those experiences. It takes considerable skill as a writer to not just tell the reader through their adult eyes what it felt like at a specific moment in the past, but to make the reader feel what it was like to go through the moment. There is so much in here to discuss - from the impact of war, to the immigrant experience, to race in America, and more. One of my very favorite aspects of this book -- and you see it in every single section - is the strength and power of the women. It is beautiful and inspiring. None of the women in here wait for someone to rescue them or solve their problems - they take the action needed, they love men who respect and admire their power and strength, and they raise daughters that have those qualities. Highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Leah Rachel von Essen

    Wayétu Moore writes of her personal and emotional story in The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir. On her 5th birthday, all Wayétu can think of is how much she misses her mother, who is studying in the United States. But when the First Liberian War breaks out, it threatens the lives of all civilians, as the sides war in a scorched earth fashion, destroying all in their path. Moore and her family flee their home. This memoir recounts their journey, their escape from Liberia, as well as the s Wayétu Moore writes of her personal and emotional story in The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir. On her 5th birthday, all Wayétu can think of is how much she misses her mother, who is studying in the United States. But when the First Liberian War breaks out, it threatens the lives of all civilians, as the sides war in a scorched earth fashion, destroying all in their path. Moore and her family flee their home. This memoir recounts their journey, their escape from Liberia, as well as the story of Wayétu's experience of blackness in the US and her mother's story of what it took to get them there. While the structure's creativity can create the sense of detached pieces brought together, a life is not neatly pushed into chapters, and Moore tells the story of her family and their survival with honesty and richness even so. Her prose and creative decisions, the folklore and myth that imbues the stories she shares, make this memoir compelling throughout, and it had the added bonus of educating me on a moment in history that I knew little about.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca H.

    At the age of 5, Wayétu Moore’s life in Liberia was upended when her country was plunged into civil war, and her family had to flee. Her father promised her that they would soon see her mother, who was studying in the United States, but in the meantime, they had to walk for weeks until they reached a town in which they could hide. They remained there until a rebel soldier smuggled them across the border. Moore’s memoir tells this harrowing story and then moves to the time after they reach the Un At the age of 5, Wayétu Moore’s life in Liberia was upended when her country was plunged into civil war, and her family had to flee. Her father promised her that they would soon see her mother, who was studying in the United States, but in the meantime, they had to walk for weeks until they reached a town in which they could hide. They remained there until a rebel soldier smuggled them across the border. Moore’s memoir tells this harrowing story and then moves to the time after they reach the United States, when she and her family have to adjust to an entirely new way of life. The book is a powerful look at the migrant experience and how its effects reverberate decades into the future. https://bookriot.com/summer-indie-pre...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Brown

    Liberia. I can’t say enough good things about this book. One of my favorites on race in America.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessie (Zombie_likes_cake)

    While I don't think I loved the writing as much as most other people, I believe this is a very well written memoir. I am just coming to understand that war memoirs written from the POV of children might not be my favorite thing. There is something of the naivete and failure to understand what's going on of this perspective, a reaction that shouldn't be any other way and is exactly what you would expect from a child living such a devastating fate, yet I find it frustrating to read. I don't even l While I don't think I loved the writing as much as most other people, I believe this is a very well written memoir. I am just coming to understand that war memoirs written from the POV of children might not be my favorite thing. There is something of the naivete and failure to understand what's going on of this perspective, a reaction that shouldn't be any other way and is exactly what you would expect from a child living such a devastating fate, yet I find it frustrating to read. I don't even like child POVs in fiction all that much. But in a memoir I prefer the adult voice and the adult's ability to reflect and create context. So no surprise here, this book improved vastly for me when Moore moves into recounting her life from an adult perspective. The whole structure of this memoir is actually quite interesting and despite the fact that I didn't love the child's voice, I kind of love that she told this in different voices within the different parts. We start off in a kid's voice recounting how she experienced the outbreak of war in Liberia, in the second part Moore meets us as an adult in New York jumping back and forth between that life and remembering her teenage years in Texas with her post-war memories and the struggle of figuring out life in the US as black African woman. The third part is even told from her mother's POV, a super fascinating choice, and actually my favorite part yet it definitely blows open the question of whether this is still non-fiction and a memoir or if this is a fictionalized account of true events... really loved this part! We learn how her mother came to be in the US before the war broke out and what she did to try and get her family out of there. In the end Moore rounds it out with more childhood memories of leaving Liberia. What I loved were the feminist aspects: it was the mother who moved hell to get her family out of a war zone, it was a female rebel soldier that risked her life to save the family, it was black female friendship that helped her deal with racism and xenophobia in the US. There are just some beautiful moments in that regard. What I could have done less with were the fairy tale style descriptions that little Tutu chose (Dragons for evil men, Giant for her father), I felt like the theme wasn't incorporated far enough for me to gain much from it and found it kind of juvenile and distracting (I get it: it was a child, it makes sense it was juvenile, still didn't care for it). Nonetheless, overall a strong memoir, insightful, and definitely a tool to learn more about Liberia and immigrant life in the US but even more so an emotional life account. And what a cover!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Danny

    Wayétu Moore certainly makes some very interesting stylistic choices in this memoir. To tell the story of her escape from war-torn Liberia, to the United States and back again, Moore plays with narrative voice and structure in bold and compelling ways that I think I would have appreciated oh so much more had I read traditionally rather than audiobook. Listening to it (whilst Christmas shopping!) was probably not the best choice and I found myself a little more confused and distracted than usual. Wayétu Moore certainly makes some very interesting stylistic choices in this memoir. To tell the story of her escape from war-torn Liberia, to the United States and back again, Moore plays with narrative voice and structure in bold and compelling ways that I think I would have appreciated oh so much more had I read traditionally rather than audiobook. Listening to it (whilst Christmas shopping!) was probably not the best choice and I found myself a little more confused and distracted than usual. Moore writes her memoir so that it almost reads like fiction, with an immersive narrative style that, initially, is deeply engaging. The early sections, in particular, were very impactful, as we witness the confusion and chaos of civil war through the eyes of a child. In this section, Moore uses fairy-tales and local myths (hence the dragons and giants) as allegories to help make sense of the devastating events taking place. It is a beautiful account of a family’s determination to not only survive but love one another fiercely whilst doing so. When the action shifts to Moore’s life in America, it becomes something altogether different, offering thoughtful ruminations on issues of immigration and racism. However, the final section, assumes Moore’s mother’s voice, whisking readers back to the turbulence of Liberia and taking creative licence to explain how the family managed to find each other again. It is during these sections that I lost my way a little with the narrative trajectory BUT I still relished Moore’s beautiful prose and rich storytelling. It’s a powerful and moving account of a country and war I know very little about and I am keen to read it again (properly, in book form!) in the future.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits The Dragons, the Giant, the Women begins by showing us Liberia through the eyes of five-year-old Wayétu. I loved this first section the best because it is so vividly recollected and described, and Moore manages to perfectly capture a young child's understanding of the world around her. She weaves together imaginative ideas from the stories her grandmother tells and tries to use these images to make sense of the encroaching civil war chaos. Th See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits The Dragons, the Giant, the Women begins by showing us Liberia through the eyes of five-year-old Wayétu. I loved this first section the best because it is so vividly recollected and described, and Moore manages to perfectly capture a young child's understanding of the world around her. She weaves together imaginative ideas from the stories her grandmother tells and tries to use these images to make sense of the encroaching civil war chaos. The family's long trek to escape the fighting is heartbreaking as is Wayétu's longing for her absent mother. Moore then goes on to portray her experiences as a Blackgirl in Texas once her immediate family is given permission to immigrate to America, sadly having to leave her grandmother behind in Liberia. I cannot begin to imagine the intensity of the culture shock the family went through. That they escaped at all, and were reunited with Wayétu's mother is miraculous. As Moore explains it though, possibly due to her youth at the time of their escape, her sense of dislocation from her homeland is more of an influence on her adult life than the trauma from which she is expected to suffer. I enjoyed reading this memoir, especially Moore's prose style which I felt suited the work well. She puts her ideas across in an accessible way which was useful for me particularly in understanding the complexities of Liberia's civil war. I am now keen to also read Moore's novel, She Would Be King.

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