Review of The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu - Mary Helen Specht

New York Times, 11 August 2015
Sunday Book Review

Mary Helen Specht

Warning of the dangers of what she calls “the single story” about any given place or people, the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says that it “creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Too often in the United States, we have created a single narrative about foreign countries, particularly African countries: They’re impoverished and war-torn and beset by disease or, more benignly, simply teeming with exotic animals.

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‘The Hairdresser of Harare,’ by Tendai Huchu - The New York Times

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Il Parrucchiere di Harare

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Review of The Hairdresser of Harare by Scots Whay Hae

Scots Whay Hae!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Cut Above The Rest: A Review Of Tendai Huchu's The Hairdresser of Harare...

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New Review: Hairdresser of Harare

The South African
14th February, 2013
Book review: ‘The Hairdresser of Harare’ by Tendai Huchu
by Elizabeth Glanville

As a novel that takes you right into the heart of the hopes and despair of the lives of two Zimbabwean friends, as well as the country as a whole, The Hairdresser of Harare is an enjoyable read that highlights the wider struggle of a nation within the microcosm of a local salon.

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New: Hairdresser of Harare Review by Jane Bryce

"...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."


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Review: Hairdresser of Harare by Jane Bryce


The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu

A personal comment by Jane Bryce

Professor of African Literature and Cinema, University of Barbados, Cave Hill.

I enjoyed this novel at a number of levels: in the context of Zimbabwean literature, there hasn't been that much humour (apart perhaps from the short stories in Laughing Now) since Dambudzo and it's encouraging to encounter it here. I also felt it was an interesting fit with Brian Chikwava's Harare North (set in London) in the revealing of the more savage sides of Zim politics and social inequalities through the eyes of an unreliable narrator.

And that's the other level – the perfectly judged ambiguity of tone rendered as an effect of point of view Vimbai starts out comically vain but keenly observant, and a lot of the early humour arises from her observations on the salon, its clients, its owner, the other hairdressers, cumulatively amounting to a microcosm of late-Mugabe Zimbabwean society, with its hypocrisies, hierarchies and narcissism. The use of suspense is good too, with Vimbai's gradually unfolding backstory explaining why she lives alone in a large suburban house, why she's fallen out with her family, why she's a single mother, etc. There are plenty of hints even at this stage as to her shallowness and selfishness, but she remains a likeable charcter with plausible motives.

After Dumi moves in with her, the plot thickens and characterisation becomes more complex as Vimbai's relationship with him becomes more ambiguous. Because the reader knows well in advance of Vimbai that Dumi is gay, the dominant tone shifts from comic to ironic. Vimbai's entrancement with Dumi's much richer family and their reception of her spells out the way cronyism and corruption have permeated the society. She appears innocent, but, dazzled by luxury, is she complicit in their buying of her as cover for their son's gayness? In the material conditions of a city where money has no value – and everyone has to hustle to survive – even if she's aware she's being bribed, can she be blamed?

By the time she finds out Dumi is gay, her reaction is clearly rendered as an effect of the social brainwashing which is more clearly dramatised in Harare North. In the latter the persona is one of Mugabe's Green Bombers, and the novel is unsettling partly because he never backs down from the ideology of violence-as-control espoused by the Bombers. At the same time, he is mentally unstable and can't be relied on as a narrator. Vimbai is similarly unreliable in the sense that, while she may suffer at the hands of the elite and is sexually abused by her daughter's father, she fully subscribes to the leadership's designation of gays as 'worse than pigs and dogs'. Her reaction is an effect of the violence and corruption of Zimbabwe's ruined economy, the way poor people take refuge in pentecostal churches, which similarly preach homophobia, and the need for scapegoats. However, the writer's balancing of comic and serious maintains ambiguity so effectively that even Vimbai's betryal of Dumi doesn't destroy our sympathy for her. Which is quite a feat!


Review: The Hairdresser of Harare


Tendai Huchu: The Hairdresser of Harare

Reviewed by NICKI LEONE

“I tell you that a clever, thoughtful, ambitious hairdresser wields a power beyond the comprehension of most men.” —John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

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Review link from Round Table

For the article by Ranka Primorac and Stephen Chan on The Hairdresser of Harare, 'Postscript: Making do in a Hybrid House' see

Free access to this article has been kindly granted us by the publishers Routledge, a member of the Taylor and Francis Group. The article was first published in The Round Table, Vol. 99, No 411, December 2010. This was a special issue on Zimbabwe entitled 'The Space of
Many Voices - Zimbabwe since the Unity Government' edited by Ranka Primorac and Stephen Chan.

Review of The Hairdresser of Harare - Rosetta Codling

The Hairdresser of Harare
: Politics of life through hair

Rosetta Codling, European Literary Scene Examiner

September 8, 2011

Continue reading on The Hairdresser of Harare: Politics of life through hair - National European Literary Scene |

Author: Tendai Huchu

Title: The Hairdresser of Harare, 2010

Attention readers: Atlanta is the Black hair capital of the world. Atlanta is renowned for the sensational hair shows and competitions that have contributed to the fame of this city. TendaiHuchu ’s book may provide insight into the mystique of this culture of Black hair. The work is set in Zimbabwe, but the politics, culture, ‘sex’, and life of hair are proven to be international through this work.

Synopsis: Vimbai is the main character and heroine of this book. She carves a lucrative business and reputation as one of the best hairdressers and stylists of Harare, Zimbabwe. Yet, her fame and her ego suffer a reshuffling when a male hairdresser comes into the shop offering his services. Dumisani is the mysterious, male hairdresser that rivals Vimbai. Hair and the processes of uncurling, heating, treating, and defeating it form the fiber of the lives of the characters in this novel. Tendai Huchu illustrates universal notions well as her characters wind their way through the hustle and bustle of the dense, congested city streets and lives of the people of the Harare community. Yet, the rivalry of the characters Vimbai and Dumisani slowly morped into a kinship based upon need, understanding, and the sharing of similar tragedies.

Critique: The ability of Zimbabweans to find humor and solidarity in the face of adversity was certainly evident in this novel. I enjoyed reading about Vimbai and her philosophy of life…it was illustrated through the combs, picks, and curling irons that she welded. I also enjoyed seeing Dumisani emerge as the head ‘peacock’ on the hair scene. The tools of his trade were his best defense mechanism against the challenges he faced in life. But, it was the utter raw, emotional bond that developed between these two that endeared me to the book most. Dumisani changed Vimbai’s world. She was introduced to a social circle that was previously forbidden and inaccessible to her. And Dumisani found that something which was ‘lost’ from this social circle. It was replaced by something more chaste and durable. This book is a testimony to the universal nature of man and the human condition. Tendai Huchu teaches us that we are all one with ‘hair’…no less and no more.

Continue reading on The Hairdresser of Harare: Politics of life through hair - National European Literary Scene |