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Book Title

The House of Rust

A Novel
Author 1
Khadija Abdalla Bajaber
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 fabulist 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.

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The first Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize winner, a story of a girl’s fantastical sea voyage to rescue her father

About the Author

Khadija Abdalla  Bajaber
Khadija Abdalla Bajaber is a Mombasarian writer of Hadhrami descent and the winner of the inaugural Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared in Enkare Review, Lolwe, and Down River Road among other places. She lives in Mombasa, Kenya.
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  • “Astonishing. . . . There are stories within stories here, bursting with truth and wisdom, honoring the rich oral traditions of the Hadrami. . . . Bajaber is a born storyteller, pulling you along Aisha’s epic quest to know her father’s fate. . . . This book deserves to be huge.”—The New York Times Book Review
  • “Bajaber’s writing is matter-of-fact and gem-cut. . . . This debut carries the invigorating mystery of the sea, its unpredictable leap and roil.”Vulture
  • “With sparse, sharply written prose and surreal imaginings, this vivid coming-of-age novel depicts the complexity of childhood, the importance of family, and the thirst for adventure.”—BuzzFeed
  • “[A] glorious sea-infused debut. . . . This is a novel as much about a young girl’s learning to trust her own courage as it is about loyalty, faith, and family. The rich descriptions of the city, its people, and the terrifying evocation of a sea full of monsters make this a riveting read.”—Yvonne C. Garrett, The Brooklyn Rail
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