The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah
ISBN: 9781590519950 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781590519967 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781978649132 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07CWGHDNS (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Other Press
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Based on true events, a story of courage, forgiveness, love, and freedom in precolonial Ghana, told through the eyes of two women born to vastly different fates.
Aminah lives an idyllic life until she is brutally separated from her home and forced on a journey that transforms her from a daydreamer into a resilient woman. Wurche, the willful daughter of a chief, is desperate to play an important role in her father’s court. These two women’s lives converge as infighting among Wurche’s people threatens the region, during the height of the slave trade at the end of the nineteenth century.
Through the experiences of Aminah and Wurche, The Hundred Wells of Salaga offers a remarkable view of slavery and how the scramble for Africa affected the lives of everyday people.
Read an excerpt from The Hundred Wells of Salaga here.
Praise for The Hundred Wells of Salaga
“A skillful portrayal of life in pre-colonial Ghana emphasizes distinctions of religion, language, and status…[Attah] has a careful eye for domestic and historical detail.” —The Guardian
“Compelling…rich and nuanced…Attah is adept at leading readers across the varied terrain of 19th-century Ghana and handles heavy subjects with aplomb. Two memorable women anchor this pleasingly complicated take on slavery, power, and freedom.” —Kirkus Reviews
“An alluring story…a novel with the power to open eyes and hearts while filling minds with plenty of food for thought.” —Shelf Awareness
“Analogous to Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning Nervous Conditions, this spacious work will appeal to readers of African and historical fiction.” —Library Journal
Meet the author
Ayesha Harruna Attah grew up in Accra, Ghana and was educated at Mount Holyoke College, Columbia University, and New York University. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Asymptote Magazine, and the 2010 Caine Prize Writers’ Anthology. Attah is an Instituto Sacatar Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship for nonfiction. She lives in Senegal.
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Every now and again I read a book that makes me stop and appreciate all that I have. One such book was The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu. This isn’t nonfiction and isn’t filled with dark themes in general. It tells the story of two hairdressers in Harare, Zimbabwe and societal prejudices. One is a male and from a privileged urban family, Dumisani. The other is female, a single mother, and from a poor rural family, Vimbai. Theirs is a story of endurance, jealousy, friendship and betrayal.
Vimbai is a 26-year-old single mother. She works reasonably hard at her craft and considers herself the best hairdresser in Harare. Her goal is to eventually own and operate her own salon, but for now she plods away working for Mrs. Khumalo. Vimbai has her own personal issues to deal with, such as becoming a single mother at age 19, raising her daughter alone because the father is married, and an estrangement from her family because her elder brother died and left her his home in Harare. She, and everyone else in the working 10%, must also deal with the overwhelming inflation rate and search for basic staples like sugar and cornmeal not to mention flickering electrical service and exorbitant utilities. Vimbai’s status and security is threatened when Dumisani walks in to Mrs. Khumalo’s salon, requests employment and gets it. Most of the new clients and a few of the older established clients all vie for Dumisani to work on their hair. Dumisani goes out of his way to befriend Vimbai, eventually becoming a tenant in her home and before long a very good friend. He invites her to a family wedding and their relationship moves from friendship to an engagement. Dumisani’s family openly embraces Vimbai and her daughter because they feel that the relationship between Vimbai and Dumisani means he is “cured” (this is the first reference to Dumisani’s homosexuality). Dumisani has kept a secret and it is a secret that could get him killed and threatens Vimbai’s new found security.
I actually enjoyed reading The Hairdresser of Harare. I presumed it would be depressing given that it deals with prejudices, but it wasn’t. Mr. Huchu incorporates the topics of racism, poverty, and prejudice in a very circumspect manner but he gets the point across. Vimbai isn’t easy to like as a character but I think that’s because of her flaws more so than anything else. Dumisani isn’t as developed as Vimbai but he is likable. Both Vimbai and Dumisani have a certain naïveté about life and family that was actually refreshing. The only problems I had in reading this book was in understanding the names and foreign terminology (a personal hang-up…I like to not only understand but also know how to pronounce everything when reading). If you haven’t read anything that might be classified as African Literature and want to start, then I recommend The Hairdresser of Harare. This was my first foray into this genre, as well as my first book by Mr. Huchu, and I hope it won’t be my last for the genre and this author.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the author. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”