Khadija Abdalla Bajaber

Cindy Seip

Khadija Abdalla Bajaber is a Mombasarian writer of Hadrami descent and the inaugural Graywolf Press Africa Prize winner. Her work has appeared in Enkare Review, Lolwe, and Down River Road, among other places. The House of Rust: A Novel (Graywolf Press) is a magical realist coming-of-age tale told through the lens of the Swahili and diasporic Hadrami culture in Mombasa, Kenya. 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 her journey, Aisha meets terrifying sea monsters, and after surviving a confrontation with Baba wa Papa, the father of all sharks, she rescues her father. Still, rather than life returning to normal, at home, things only grow stranger. Kirkus called it “a novel of tradition, ritual, and mystical adventure. … [a] tale rife with creatures and immersed in the Hadrami culture of Kenya.”