Uhuru Street

Publisher: Emblem Editions
By the two-time winner of the Giller Prize for his novels The Book of Secrets and The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

Uhuru Street is M.G. Vassanji’s stunning book of linked stories, set within the Asian community of Dar es Salaam. With delicate strokes, and with irony and humour, Vassanji brings alive the characters who live and work in the shops and tenements of Uhuru Street; among them: Roshan Mattress, so called because of her free and easy ways; a street-wise orphan fighting for survival; a Goan dressmaker who entertains her employers with local gossip; and a servant who opens up the world for the children in his charge, until he oversteps his bounds and has to leave. As the younger generation searches for a new destiny, and the older fiercely holds on to the past, Uhuru Street resonates with the moment of moving on, of leaving the place where we have roots, knowing that things will never be the same.


Sunday afternoon languor descends over the street as usual. The day is hot but clear and a soft breeze blows bits of paper about. The street gradually empties of people and business comes to a halt. The last strains of Akashwani on the airwaves from India mingle with the smell of hot ghee, fried onions, and saffron that...
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1. As Vassanji tells us in the foreword, the stories in Uhuru Street explore political and social change in the city of Dar es Salaam in the East African country of Tanganyika. They follow an historical arc which begins in the years leading up to independence (in 1961) and concludes in the decade or so afterward...

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“A sensory bouquet. The homely details of rural Indian life evoke responses from the nose, the eyes, the ears – and the heart. . . . Vassanji is a wizard with mood and atmosphere.”
Edmonton Journal

“First and foremost Vassanji is a storyteller, and, like William Faulkner, he has created a fictional world that he will return to again and again.… Vivid down to the most minute detail.”
–Kingston Whig-Standard

“Fascinating.…Vassanji writes smoothly and confidently.”
- Ottawa Citizen

“There is much in this volume to admire: pace, timing, economy of means, richness of effect. Uhuru Street does its work quietly and purposefully; Vassanji’s confident skill is impressive.”
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