The Hairdresser of Harare

The Hairdresser of Harare

by Tendai Huchu

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Overview

The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu


In this delicious and devastating first novel, which The Guardian named one of its ten best contemporary African books, Caine Prize finalist Tendai Huchu (The Maestro, the Magistrate, and the Mathematician) portrays the heart of contemporary Zimbabwean society with humor and grace.

Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, and she is secure in her status until the handsome, smooth-talking Dumisani shows up one day for work. Despite her resistance, the two become friends, and eventually, Vimbai becomes Dumisani’s landlady. He is as charming as he is deft with the scissors, and Vimbai finds that he means more and more to her. Yet, by novel’s end, the pair’s deepening friendship—used or embraced by Dumisani and Vimbai with different futures in mind—collapses in unexpected brutality.

The novel is an acute portrayal of a rapidly changing Zimbabwe. In addition to Vimbai and Dumisani’s personal development, the book shows us how social concerns shape the lives of everyday people.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780821421635
Publisher: Ohio University Press
Publication date: 08/15/2015
Series: Modern African Writing Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 813,017
Product dimensions: 5.58(w) x 8.46(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author


Tendai Huchu’s work has been translated into German, French, Spanish, and Italian. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Interzone, Wasafiri, and elsewhere. He was shortlisted for the 2014 Caine Prize.

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The Hairdresser of Harare 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
RtBBlog More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Maria Book provided by the author for review Review originally posted at Romancing the Book A piece of contemporary African fiction set in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. I imagine that this would be read with much interest and fascination in the western world. As a westerner living in another developing country and former British colony, India, I read this one with particular interest. The story is told through the eyes of Vimbai, a young Zim woman who has learned to survive in a tough society. Vimbai is a single parent who was literally ‘used and thrown’ by a wealthy businessman. Because of her talent and sheer hard work (not to mention the legacy of a nice house left to her by her late brother who was killed in an accident in England), she makes a respectable living as a hairdresser. Vimbai is knocked off her throne as the queen bee hairstylist of Mrs. Khumalo’s salon when Dumi, a handsome and talented young man joins the staff and wins the hearts of the staff and customers alike. But soon, after renting a room at Vimbai’s house, he wins her heart too. Through her relationship with Dumi, Vimbai wins social acceptability and a business of her own. As her love for Dumi grows, she is disturbed by his reluctance to make love to her. What is the secret he’s hiding? The ‘female’ voice of the narrator was so convincing I was surprised to learn that Tendai Huchu is a man. I haven’t read a lot of African literature, but what little I have has shown a simplicity of style and refreshing directness. This novel fits that description. It doesn’t shy away from controversial topics such as menstruation, AIDS and female condoms. To my delight, it also, through Vimbai’s voice, commented on Church matters and politics. One can learn a lot about modern Zim society through experiencing this novel. There was particularly vivid characterization, Vimbai and Dumi were crystal clear, as were various other characters. There’s a thread of humor running through the story too, which doesn’t hurt at all, in spite of the serious issues this novel touches on. If you have any interest at all in African culture and literature, pick up a copy of this novel. You won’t regret it. Favorite Quote:  “Everyone who goes there comes back. I hear horror stories about people’s hair snapping off.” It was an exaggeration, but destroying a competitor’s reputation was all part of the game. Easy Touch, in turn, spread a rumor that we were wenches who wanted to steal our customers’ husbands. It must have scared some women off because we were all beautiful except for Agnes who shared her mother’s toadyish shape. Neither mother nor daughter had necks. Shame.
BookReflections More than 1 year ago
From the beginning, I was drawn into this story.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Zimbabwe and the struggles of the post-revolution country.  The glimpses into the people and how they cope with difficult times was truly fascinating.  But the real story involved Vimbai and the unfolding relationship with Dumisani.  Dumi's secret becomes pretty clear half-way through the story but it doesn't ruin the story; it merely drew me in more as I wanted to know how things would unfold.  I was quite disappointed with the ending as I felt that it was abrupt and didn't tell me anything about the ripple effects of Dumi's actions.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with this read and really enjoyed both the insights into the culture and the drama within the story.
Meg-ABookishAffair More than 1 year ago
Vimbai, Harare's top hairdresser, is not happy when Dumi walks into Mrs. Khumalo's Hair Salon looking for a job. Dumi becomes a formidable opponent in the Hair Salon but also a good friend and a potential lover when he moves into the extra room in Vimbai's house. Zimbabwe is not a country that I know a lot about so I was very excited to read this book. This book can be classified as light fiction but it does cover a lot of heavy topics. It covers some of the politics of Zimbabwe and the environment that the people of the country are dealing with. The people of Zimbabwe have a lot to worry about. Their economy is out of control. Unemployment is wildly high. Vimbai must check her young daughter for signs of abuse because it's plausible that her daughter could be abused while Vimbai was away at work. One of the topics that the book tackles is the issue of homosexuality in Zimbabwe. On that topic, Zimbabwe is pretty conservative. Gay people are seen as not fit to be a part of society. They are seen as being dirty and gross. Being "out" in Zimbabwe almost doesn't seem like it's feasible. You can see why Dumi does what he does in the story. Bottom line: This is a great book that really brought to light some of the issues of this country in vivid color.
JamesterCK More than 1 year ago
When I agreed to review this book, I figured it would just be an interesting read. What I didn't expect is how much I would love the smooth writing style and humor that make up the story! Vimbai is the main character and the story is told completely from her point of view (first person). She is very witty and her humorous opinions and observations had me smiling while reading. She's definitely what you could call a "diva"; for a long time she's been Mrs. Khumalo's best hairdresser at the salon, so she knows no matter what she they won't fire her. They need her because she brings in business and she uses this to her advantage, coming in late to work most of the time and doing whatever she pleases. As the story progresses, we get to see Vimbai grow and change, becoming more humble as the days go on. When Dumisani, "Dumi" for short, comes on the scene Vimbai is extremely jealous at how talented he is. For lack of better words, she acts like a spoiled brat; she doesn't want to get to know Dumi or have anything to do with him. He ends up stealing a lot of her customers, but he is so charming and genuinely nice that even though Vimbai remains jealous she starts to enjoy his company. It's very interesting to see how much their relationship changes through the course of this book, which makes the ending even more shocking as a major betrayal on both sides is revealed. I don't really have many negative things to say about The Hairdresser Of Harare. Since this story was set in Zimbabwe, I had trouble with some of the non-English words throughout. Luckily some definitions were given immediately following the unfamiliar words, but occasionally there were words or phrases that were not readily defined. A glossary of words at the back of the book might have helped in that situation, but it didn't affect my overall opinion of the book much at all. Also, I felt like the ending was a bit abrupt. Maybe I'm the only one that felt that way, but I wanted to know more about what happened with the characters later in life. Dumi and Vimbai do develop sort of a relationship, yet Vimbai is extremely blind and naive to things that might be obvious to anyone else. Especially when she accompanies him to his brother's wedding and his parent's make a huge deal out of him bringing his "girlfriend" to meet them. Vimbai finds it strange but decides not to think too much of it; I think that with her past unhealthy relationship she just wanted so much to be loved that she was willing to overlook what was right in front of her the whole time. I really enjoyed this book, it certainly exceeded my expectations. The characters were interesting and felt genuine and Harare was described very vividly. The writing was superb and gripped me until the very last page. I'm so glad the author gave me a chance to read/review this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Vimbai is the best hairdresser in Harare, or so she thinks until Dumisani shows up to fill a vacancy at the salon where she works. The good looking man soon multiples business, brings in enough money to give the salon a makeover, and even becomes the manager. Dumisani moves in with Vimbai to save on rent and the two soon bond over similar family circumstances - both have become family outcasts, though for different reasons. When Vimbai finally learns why Dumisani was shunned by his family, she must come to terms with her own prejudices. I absolutely loved this book! There is pure entertainment value in the book, the characters are unique and setting was painted richly by the author. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the political climate in Zimbabwe, a situation that hasn't been in the news recently. But it's also something bigger going on here. The way the author tells the story, it feels so realistic and undoubtedly there have been people in Zimbabwe much like Dumisani who have faced awful discrimination because of who they are. I think there's a lesson in this book that every American should learn and I truly hope this novel finds the acclaim in the States that it deserves. I would recommend this book to anyone: to people who know the lesson and to people who need to learn the lesson alike. Read it and spread the word!