The Hairdresser of Harare

By Tendai Huchu

Selected for the Junior Library's pilot program for adult/teen crossover books

“A fresh and moving account of contemporary Zimbabwe….The Hairdresser of Harare ultimately wins us over with the vividness of its setting and characters, and with its reminder of the multitude of rich stories to be found in their daily lives.”

The New York Times Book Review

Hairdresser was a perfect end of summer read; my book was sticky from sweat and sugary from bubbling peaches that went into the pies and preserves I was making – a delicious hair-salon-gossip kind of novel about minding, mending and maintaining social mores. It is a novel about hearbreak, but more seriously, it is also about the inevitable breaks that happen in one’s psyche, sometimes accompanied by injury to the physical body, when one’s community disciplines in order to reinforce its social and sexual expectations.”

Neelika Jayawardane, Africa Is a Country

“Diasporic writers, presumably granted a bit of historical distance, seem like the most intuitive place to find writing that errs more toward the philosophical than the experiential. And that hunch is not altogether wrong: the Edinburgh-based Zimbabwean novelist Tendai Huchu, to take the most prominent and promising example, is unusually bold on this front. Each of his novels—2011’s The Hairdresser of Harare and last year’s The Maestro, the Magistrate, and the Mathematician (the first already republished and the second forthcoming with Ohio University Press)—explicitly sets out to capture ideas as things that guide but stand apart from personal experience.”


“This sharp, entertaining, and thoughtful debut is rife with sociopolitical commentary but never loses its humanity…. Through deceptively simple observations and plain prose, Huchu exposes readers to issues of classism, racism, and homophobia without ever coming across as preachy or heavy-handed.”

Kirkus Reviews

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.

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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In Series

Modern African Writing

Related Subjects

Fiction · African Authors · African Studies · Zimbabwe



Retail price: $16.95, T.
Release date: Sep. 2015
200 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:North America


Retail price: $35.00, S.
Release date: Sep. 2015
200 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:North America


Release date: Sep. 2015
≅ 200 pages
Rights:North America

Additional Praise for The Hairdresser of Harare

“Huchu brings Harare’s public and private spaces to vivid life. These people and places are distinguished by aspiration and failure, international engagement and small-town provincialism, wealth and poverty, family ties and bitter mistrust—and, always, the specter of violence and a tenuous peace.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune

“This glorious book defies classification with its astute sociopolitical commentary nestling inside the appealing, often comic story of a young woman who will not accept defeat. With a light touch and real skill, Huchu takes us through the life-sapping economic realities of contemporary Harare.”

The Guardian

“Written with a clear, economical style and deceptive simplicity, this is a novel one can glide through in a matter of hours and end up wanting more.”

The Herald (Scotland)

“Tendai Huchu’s excellent novel deftly mixes a touching narrative with sharp social commentary…. Vimbai’s narration is light and comic, recounting the little joys and absurdities of her job, before she gestures arrestingly to the bleak realities of life in Zimbabwe.”

The Independent