Six Novels on Tanzania

This month, I head out for my next IRP trip: Tanzania! Naturally, my mind first turns to books about or from Tanzania. As I learned on my recent trip to Zambia, there are many fine books that I’m sure I won’t discover until I set foot in the country. But these titles should help me prepare for the trip. Unlike my research for Zambia, I’ve found a ton of interesting books from and about Tanzania.

First, I’m looking at six novels that involve Tanzanian settings, in no particular order. Next week, I’ll list the best nonfiction books from or about Tanzania.

By the SeaBy The Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah
When Saleh Omar arrives at Gatwick Airport late one afternoon, he has a badly faked passport and exhibits no knowledge of English beyond these two words. He was once a furniture shop owner, a husband, and a father. Now he has arrived in England seeking asylum from his native Zanzibar, using silence and claiming ignorance as his only protection. Meanwhile, Latif Mahmud, a poet and professor, lives quietly alone in his London flat, bitter about the country and family he has left behind and never revisited. When the two men meet in a small English seaside town, there begins the unraveling of a feud from long ago — a story of seduction and deception, of the haphazard displacement of people.

Snows of KilimanjaroThe Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway
The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories contains ten of Hemingway’s most acclaimed and popular works of short fiction, including “The Killers,” “Fathers and Sons,” “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and the title story itself, of which Hemingway said: “I put all the true stuff in,” with enough material, he boasted, to fill four novels. Beautiful in their simplicity, startling in their originality, and unsurpassed in their craftsmanship, the stories in this volume highlight one of America’s master storytellers at the top of his form.

Trade WindTrade Wind by M.M. Kaye
The scene is teeming Zanzibar just before the American Civil War, when the Isle of Cloves was a center of African slave trade. To it comes Hero Athena Hollis, a Boston bluestocking filled with self-righteousness and bent on good deeds. Then she meets Rory Frost, a cynical, wicked, shrewd and good-humored trader in slaves. What is Hero to make of him (and of her feelings for him)?

Death in ZanzibarDeath in Zanzibar by M.M. Kaye
Dany Ashton is invited to vacation at her stepfather’s house in Zanzibar, but even before her airplane takes off there is a stolen passport, a midnight intruder–and murder. In Zanzibar, the family house is Kivulimi, the mysterious “House of Shade”, where Dany and the rest of the guests learn that one of them is a desperate killer. The air of freedom and nonchalance that opened the house party fades into growing terror, as the threat of further violence flowers in the scented air of Zanzibar. Richly evocative, Death in Zanzibar will charm long-time fans and introduce new ones to this celebrated writer.

A Girl Called ProblemA Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk
In 1967 Tanzania, when President Nyerere urges his people to work together as one extended family, the people of Lawanima move to a new village. To some, the new village seems cursed, but it is here that 13-year-old Shida, a healer, and her female cousins are allowed to attend school.

Dar Es SalaamDar Es Salaam by Tara Kai
This is the story of the emotional awakening of a precocious 14-year-old English girl, Tatum, while on vacation with her family in Tanzania. Her story interweaves the heat and sensuousness of Africa into her own growing inner world–one of painful memories of divorce, abuse, and erotic fantasies. Not sure about that last part, but we’ll see how the book is!

I’m eager to arrive in Tanzania and scope out local bookstores to see what I’m missing.

Have you read any of these or other novels on or from Tanzania? What would you recommend before my trip?

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