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The 2021 Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize is now open for submissions via Submittable through August 31, 2021.

The House of Rust

A Novel
Khadija Abdalla Bajaber
The House of Rust is an enchanting novel about a Hadrami 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 Hadrami 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 Hadrami 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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  • “Khadija Abdalla Bajaber has infused new life into the age-old story of adventure on the high seas. On the surface this is a limpid tale, but it is eddied and enriched by what lurks beneath the surface of both the sea and the prose. Everything in this story sparkles.”—A. Igoni Barrett, judge’s statement

  • “Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s command of language and story is transcendent. The House of Rust is an immersive experience in Kenyan mythology, and an honest exploration of loss and family from a uniquely talented writer.”—Wayétu Moore

  • The House of Rust is a gorgeous coming-of-age story, and I’m going to be obsessing about it for quite some time. . . . I wanted to lose myself forever in the dark spaces of Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s prose.”—Charlie Jane Anders

  • The House of Rust is as labyrinthine, magical and multilayered as Mombasa itself. . . . An astonishing and exhilarating debut.”—Shailja Patel
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