The Hairdresser of Harare by Huchu, T
Publisher: Jacana 2010
Vimbai is a young single mother trying to make a life for herself and a future for her daughter in the harsh climate of Harare. She also claims to be the best hairdresser in Zimbabwe. A new male hairdresser, Dumisani Ncube, joins the salon and soon scoops up the number one spot. Against her better judgment, Vimbai falls in love with Dumisani not knowing he comes from one of the wealthiest families in Harare. The couple's relationship is fostered by Dumisani's wealthy parents who seem rather keen for the two to be together even though Vimbai is from a much poorer background. What Vimbai does not know is that Dumisani is gay and he is using her to cover up his own sexuality. Dumisani falls for Mr M___, the husband of a prominent government minister who has an eye on the presidency. Mr M___'s wife arranges for thugs to kill Dumisani fearing that her political career may be jeopardised if her husband's philandering is exposed. The thugs beat up Dumisani and leave him for dead...but he survives. The title ends with Vimbai seeing him off at the airport, because of events she has gained a better understanding of how gays live in Zimbabwe where homosexuality is illegal - she has also become a more compassionate person. While Dumisani is central to the narrative, his sexuality is only revealed near the end - therefore this book is more than just this one theme. The story is a first-person narrative and hinges on Vimbai's running social commentary. It shows how important the role of women is in a disintegrating society. Ultimately, it is a story about Zimbabwean society from top to bottom. We are exposed to middle- and upper-class Zimbabweans, their wealth and prejudices.