Mombasa-born author Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s novel, ‘The House of Rust’ has won the 2022 Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction.
The nine shortlisted books were chosen by the Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust following a public nomination process. The other two finalists: How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente.
The House of Rust is richly engaging and written with an imaginative hand and sharp eye for unusual detail. It is an immersive experience in Kenyan mythology with many surreal creatures and fable elements set in Mombasa.
When her fisherman father goes missing, Aisha, a Hadrami girl in Mombasa started a rescue mission that turns out to be the beginning of an elaborate adventure.
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). After battling three terrifying sea monsters and having a final confrontation with the father of all sharks, she rescues her own father.
“Khadija Abdalla Bajaber’s command of language and story is transcendent,” writes Wayétu Moore. Bajaber whose manuscript won the Graywolf Press Africa Prize holds a degree in journalism.
The Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction is an annual $25,000 cash prize given to a writer for a single work of imaginative fiction. It is intended to celebrate writers who Ursula spoke of in her 2014 National Book Awards speech — realists of a larger reality, who can imagine real grounds for hope and see alternatives to how we live now.
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