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Monday, November 28, 2022 — Houston, TX

Author Wayétu Moore explores dating, intersectionality

Michelle Gachelin / Thresher

By Riya Misra     11/8/22 11:48pm

Liberian-American author and entrepreneur Wayétu Moore hosted a book reading Nov. 3 in the Rice Memorial  Chapel. The reading delved into themes of Blackness, dating and intersectionality, and was sponsored by the Cherry Reading Series, R2: The Rice Review and Rice’s Department of English.

The critically acclaimed Lannan Literary Fellow read excerpts from her novel “She Would Be King,” which Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Entertainment Weekly and Buzzfeed named a Best Book of 2018. Moore also read chapters from her memoir “The Dragons, The Giant, The Women,” which was named a 2020 New York Times Notable Book, a Time Magazine 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 and a Publishers Weekly Top 5 Nonfiction Books of 2020.

While reading “The Dragons, The Giant, The Women,” which the New York Times described as “challenging false popular narratives that migration is optional, permanent and always results in a better life,” Moore is forced to contend with how her identities interact with her broader social and romantic life. Many of these moments range from awkwardly relatable to downright uneasy, and Moore eagerly invites her audience to share in this discomfort.

In one anecdote, Moore muses upon a past “black girl/white boy” relationship with Johnny Boy, a blithely ignorant, sharply handsome Midwesterner who proudly touted “You know ... I just ... I don’t see color.”

Moore is shoved into a position where she must shoulder the racial burden that her ultra-liberal, protest-inclined boyfriend refuses to hold on to himself, his color-blindness gradually rendering Moore more and more invisible. This tension comes to a head when Moore is in the shower and Johnny Boy makes a smart-aleck comment about her afro.

“Don’t you wish you had hair like mine?” Johnny Boy said.

Moore, whose tone during the reading tended to be  softer and even-voiced, punctuates the air with her response: “What the fuck did you just say?”

The audience, not unlike Johnny Boy, finds themselves snapped out of a sort of reverie, startled into listening to Moore’s voice.

The next chapter in the reading provided the perfect opportunity for Moore’s underrated wit to shine through as she recounted the acute pains of the cultural hellscape that is the New York City dating scene. Rifling through a number of Tinder profiles — because indeed, Moore admits that nothing else is as emblematic of dating as a young adult — Moore’s short, terse prose mirrors her growing exasperation at the number of disappointing men she encounters.

In a series of small anecdotes that are at once hilarious and painfully relatable, Moore reminisces on her series of swipes: men who smile with their mouths open, who want to “make love to your mind,” who wear Freddy Krueger gloves in the bathroom mirror and, worst of all, men who you know.

“Ian. He’s six feet. NYU. Not much information, but he’s Christian and he quotes Scripture and he’s wearing a Commes des Garçons sweater. He’s cute, he works in finance, which, ugh, but whatever ... Right. Ian messages right away. Ian wants you to sit on his face,” Moore recites and is met with an ensuing din of laughter. 

After the reading, Moore was met with several questions from the audience, ranging from her dating life — with Moore admitting that she readily swiped left on men who seemed “too correct” — to her research process and career.

When giving advice to people hoping to break into creative writing, Moore stressed the importance of interpersonal relationships to inform one’s writing.

“Reading can be an isolating activity,” Moore said. “What I recommend is balancing that ... Try to understand people as best as possible.”

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