Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s “The House of Rust” to launch in Mombasa.

Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s debut novel The House of Rust is set to launch at the Alliance Française, Mombasa on Thursday, November 25, 2021. The event will run from 6:30pm – 7:30pm East African Time.

In 2017, US publisher Graywolf Press unveiled the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize to be awarded for a first novel manuscript by an author primarily residing in Africa. The annual prize would have winners receive publication by Graywolf Press and a $12,000 advance.

The first winner of the prize, conferred in 2018, was Kenya’s own Khadija Abdalla Bajaber for her then manuscript The House of Rust. Prize judge A Igoni Barrett described the work as “an exhilarating journey into the imagination of an author for whom the fantastic is not only written about, it is performed on the page. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber has infused new life into the age-old story of adventure on the high seas—with this heroic first novel she has struck deep into that mythic realm explored by everyone from Homer to Hemingway.” Here is the blurb for the new novel that was published on October 19;

The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadhrami girl in Mombasa. When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha takes to the sea on a magical boat made of a skeleton to rescue him. She is guided by a talking scholar’s cat (and soon crows, goats, and other animals all have their say, too). On this journey Aisha meets three terrifying sea monsters. After she survives a final confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father, and hopes that life will return to normal. But at home, things only grow stranger.

Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s debut is a magical realist coming-of-age tale told through the lens of the Swahili and diasporic Hadhrami culture in Mombasa, Kenya. Richly descriptive and written with an imaginative hand and sharp eye for unusual detail, The House of Rust is a memorable novel by a thrilling new voice.

The House of Rust is set to be unveiled to the world for the first time at its writers hometown of Mombasa this coming Thursday. The event is organised by the Kenyan publisher of the book Jahazi Press alongside Hekaya Arts Initiative, Prestige Bookshop, and the Alliance Française which is the host.

The House of Rust launch

The event will be moderated by journalist, creative writer, researcher, editor, artist and contributor of Hawa Noor. Ms Noor holds an M.A. in International Journalism from SOAS.

Those who make it to the exclusive event in Mombasa will get an opportunity to get their signed copies of the books. For those who cannot get to Mombasa, you can read Bajaber’s work at A Long House, Lolwe, and Down River Road.

Sign up for the event in Mombasa by clicking here.