The first Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize winner, a story of a girl’s fantastical sea voyage to rescue her father
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.
A Note From the Publisher
“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
“Bajaber’s writing, imaginative and poetic, brings us to the wrenching heart of Aisha’s coming of age.”—Lit Hub
“This is a novel of tradition, ritual, and mystical adventure. . . . [A] tale rife with creatures and immersed in the Hadrami culture of Kenya.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Bajaber’s depictions of Aisha’s daring episodes and her feminist personality consistently shimmer. Fans of modern fairy tales will find much to appreciate."—Publishers Weekly
“A novel stuffed to bursting with marvels and fairy-tale delights. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber casts a mighty spell.”
“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 as labyrinthine, magical and multilayered as Mombasa itself. . . . An astonishing and exhilarating debut.”—Shailja Patel
“What an enchanting novel. Khadija Abdalla Bajaber has written a magical tale filled with eccentric characters who are sure to endure in the halls of literature. Here is a new writer of fierce powers, who thrills and delights.”—Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
“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] will enchant the reader. . . . Khadija Abdalla Bajaber is a radiant addition to the constellations of transcultural literature.”—Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
“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