African literature has come a long way. It has moved from the periods where one could count the number of writers on ones fingers to today where quality works are produced almost everyday. Now, no one has the excuse of saying that he or she never had the opportunity of reading books by people of the continent. Before jumping fully into African literary works, I used to say that books written by Africans are too difficult to read and that they seemed to be meant for the big 'L' literature genre. Besides, having been born in a small town where there were no huts I was worried that almost every African book I picked had to deal with huts and fireside issues. The trend has changed and today we have writers writing on varied subjects and I don't mind reading about the 'Huts and Fireside' stories because I know there are others that write about other issues. Good.
Within the past week or two I have come across five new first novels by five different authors from three different countries. I would talk about them in series. Today I present the Zimbabwe duo of Tendai Huchu and Bryony Rheam.
The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
About Tendai Huchu: Tendai Huchu was born in 1982 in Bindura, Zimbabwe, He attended Churchill High School in Harare and from there went to the University of Zimbabwe to study Mining Engineering. He, however, dropped out in the middle of the first semester, found work briefly in a casino and from there drifted from one job to the next. Four years later he returned to university and is now a Podiatrist living in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Hairdresser of Harare is his first novel.
About The Hairdresser of Harare: Vimbai is a hairdresser, the best in Mrs Khumalo's salon, and she knows she is the queen on whom they all depend. Her situation is reversed when the good-looking, smooth-talking Dumisani joins them. However, his charm and desire to please slowly erode Vimbai's rancour and when he needs somewhere to live, Vimbai becomes his landlady.
So, when Dumisani needs someone to accompany him to his brother's wedding to help smooth over a family upset, Vimbai obliges. Startled to find that this smart hairdresser is the scion of one of the wealthiest families in Harare, she is equally surprised by the warmth of their welcome; and its is their subsequent generosity which appears to foster the relationship between the two young people.
The ambiguity of this deepening friendship--used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind--collapses in unexpected brutality when secrets and jealousies are exposed.
Praises for The Hairdresser of Harare:
"Like very good dark chocolate this is a delicious novel, with bitter-sweet flavour"
"A subtle and refreshing story of life in contemporary Harare ... a novel of morality, prejudice and ambition told with humour and tragedy" Brian Chikwava, award-winning author of Harare North
Tendai Huchu has accepted to be interviewed on this blog, so please just watch this space. However, until then you can visit his website. Visit weaver press for your copies.
This September Sun by Bryony Rheam
About Bryony Rheam: Bryony was born in Kadoma in 1974 and lived in Bulawayo from the age of eight until she left school. She studied for a BA and an MA in English Literature in the United Kingdom and then taught in Singapore for a year before returning to teach in Zimbabwe in 2001. She was part of the British Council sponsored Crossing Borders creative writing project and has had short stories published in several anthologies, including all three volumes in the Short Stories from Bulawayo series and in Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe. Bryony won the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo Short Story Competition in 2006.
This September Sun is Bryony's first novel.
About This September Sun: According to The Zimbo Jam, the novel is a chronicle of the lives of two women, the romantic Evelyn and her granddaughter Ellie, from the time Evelyn arrives in the country in 1946 to the present day.
Growing up in post-Independence Zimbabwe, Ellie yearns for a life beyond the confines of small town Bulawayo, a wish that eventually comes true when she moves to the United Kingdom. However, as with many Zimbabweans, life there is not all she dreamed it to be... read the rest at The Zimbo Jam.
Praise for This September Sun
A beautifully executed story about Ellie's painful journey of discovery through her family history. The writing in This September Sun, poetic at times, fires a clear warning shot across the bows of world literature to announce that Bryony Rheam has arrived to claim her rightful place--Christopher Mlalazi
An Impressive first novel by an accomplished writer that contains both romance and mystery--Brian Jones (one of the directors of amaBooks)
The novel is currently available in throughout Zimbabwe.
Get these books and enjoy the read.