BOOK READ We Need New Names AUTHOR NoViolet Bulawayo – lavitamin.us
You may love a book and hate it at the same time I did for this one Why love Too many reasons African Man Booker tagging at it youngish writer and a powerful and uniue style that is not too easy to forget Why hate Because because w 45 stars rounded up I had read mixed reviews of this novel with comments focussing on it being disjointed or running through a ticklist of African problems to sueeze in them all Some have taken issues with the first half of the book some with the second half It is the story of Darling she is born in Zimbabwe and in the first part of the book she is ten years old Darling and her gang of friends Chipo Godknows Bastard Stina and Sbho do pretty much what children left to their own devices will do in terms of games adventures and getting into trouble They live in a shanty town called Paradise and each day has its own particular adventures They often venture into the wealthy white area to steal guava and enjoy a transient sense of importance They all dream of a different life some at home and some in other places like the US The second half of the book follows Darling as she moves to live with her aunt in Detroit Michigan or Destroyedmichygen as she calls it We follow her as she grows up and moves on to adolescent adventures It has taken me a while to pin down what I think of the novel The writing is unusual and idiosyncratic English is not Bulawayo s first language This I think means she takes some liberties with the language and takes it to some different places This is refreshing The novel describes difficult experiences but there is an honesty and humour about it which carries it along The chapters take snapshots of events which has led to accusations of disjointedness I didn t find this a problem and for me the book flowed well and was easy to read There were little niggles but not the major problems I was expecting form some of the reviews Bulawayo describes very well Darling s growing sense of disillusion and alienation as a migrant in America There is a brilliant chapter towards the end of the book entitled How they lived which describes the migrant experience in a heartfelt and angry way which really hits home I have seen reviews which describe the novel as nihilistic I really don t get that at all It describes poverty and alienation It moves from Zimbabwe where conditions were difficult and there was great poverty but Darling and her friends seemed full of life and often oy to the US where there is much greater material wealth but it is not home Home is an important concept as Bulawayo explains There are three homes inside Mother s and Aunt Fostalina s heads home before independence before I was born when black people and white people were fighting over the country Home after independence when black people won the country And then the home of things falling apart which made Aunt Fostalina leave and come here Home one home two and home three There are four homes inside Mother of Bones head home before the white people came to steal the country and a king ruled home when the white people came to steal the country and then there was war home when black people got our stolen country back after independence and then the home of now Home one home two home three home four When somebody talks about home you have to listen carefully so you know exactly which one the person is referring to If you want to read a interesting and balanced review than those you will find in the western literary press read the one by Nkiacha Atemnkeng I have attempted a link here book portrays through the eyes of a childadolescent the effects of Imperialism and colonialism and highlights the difficulties of the migrant experience It is also a simple humanfamily story of how life goes on in the face of different types of adversity and oppression I found it refreshing and thought provoking Hard to say what drew me to this book the author s name is No Future for You just awesome The cover is eye catching The reviews have been stellar Also I ve long been interested in the painful history of Zimbabwe once British colonial Rhodesia since I tried to figure out how to teach this hugely complex subject and do itustice in my middle school social studies classroom I can t say that I ever really succeeded Bulawayo writes a searingly beautiful story a fictionalized memoir about a young girl Darling growing up in a Zimbabwean shantytown called Paradise The words Zimbabwe and Mugabe never appear in the book which somehow makes the sense of place and the menace of the president all the real Bulawayo is brilliant at showing us Zimbabwe through the eyes of ten year old Darling and her friends Even the most horrifying and heart wrenching scenes are leavened by the children s incredulity A few years ago I was listening to one of those From our Own Correspondent programmes on the BBC A female SOS Schlank ohne Sport - journalist was on an assignment in Mali and had got herself completely lost She drove up to this village the middle of nowhere and a whole crowd of teenagers spotted her and came crowding around She noticed with aolt that they all had Osama Bin Laden t shirts on With a sinking feeling she figured that she might be in some serious trouble They demanded to know who she was She told them she was from the BBC BBC BBC they all started yelling and cheering We love America America BBC This illustrates a certain two way misunderstanding between the West and the developing countries And also that you can t Charming the Firefighter (In Shady Grove, judge a person by the t shirt they re wearing It might be the only one they could find that morningIn this novel Darling is a 10 or 11 year old girl living in Paradise a bitterly named shantytown in Zimbabwe round about 2007 and 2008 when the whole country was falling apart We don t see the big picture because we re with a bunch of kids who roam around stealing guava and playing stupid games because they don t go to school any school closed So you don t get any mention of the scary hyperinflation which was a happening thing at that timeWiki Over the course of the five year span of hyperinflation the inflation rate fluctuated greatly At one point the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe predicted that it would reach 15 million percent In June 2008 the annual rate of price growth was 112 million percent The worst of the inflation occurred in 2008 leading to the abandonment of the currency The peak month of hyperinflation occurred in mid November 2008 with a rate estimated at 79600000000% per month The price of US1 cost Z2621984228 in October 2008Here s a Zimbabwean one hundred trillion dollar note you don t see many of those things Highly collectible nowAnyway long story short Darling gets a lucky break she has an aunt in Detroit who gets her into America on a visitor s visa And of course she stays and becomes an illegal So from being a bittersweet celebration of how kids manage to live their own lives amongst adult cruelty and economic catastrophe the story then changes gear very smoothly and becomes about awkwardness the suare peg in a round hole ness of the immigrant experience The intense longing for home yet never wanting to go back The love of family but the dread of them actually phoning all the time asking for money always money That kind of thing I think other readers have mentioned that NoViolet Bulawayo seems intent on ticking an awful lot of issue boxes as she zips through her story for instance of course the daughter of the rich guy whose house Darling cleans has bulimia and the material riches and moral emptiness of America are laid on with a bit of a trowel it s not unfair to say but still this was good stuff And there s a brilliant stand alone chapter called How They Lived which is a kind of sad survey of the whole immigrant experience and is one of the best things I read all year35 stars EDIT 10092013 Oh boy This has been included in the shortlist despite my misgivings to the contrary Heartiest congratulations to NoViolet Bulawayo Books like this one have me fumbling around for the right approach to review them because they try to cram in too much within the scope of a regular sized novel and conseuentlyust stop short of resonating strongly with the reader It s like Bulawayo had a message to give me something potent and fiercely honest enough to burn right through all my prejudices and cherished misconceptions and leave me staring right at all the cold hard facts But then halfway into it her voice went off in various tangential directions in an effort to tackle too many issues at one go and lost most of its intensity As a result the message that she had set out to deliver gave off the impression of poor phrasing and ended up sounding half hearted and rather dubiousIf I try my absolute best I can only delineate this as a search for identity a raw account of coming to terms with the after effects of displacement Or an attempt at summarizing in a few hundred pages the feelings of being neither here nor there But then Bulawayo let me know so much She told me about the experiences of surviving on a few stolen guavas walking barefoot on the burning asphalt of the dusty road and yet enjoying the smug satisfaction of playing Find Bin Laden with eually destitute and miserable kids of your age And what it feels like to flee from and forget the tattered remains of a land you were born in simply because it could not offer you the promise of a fulfilling life ahead any a land torn apart by strife ethnic violence and unstable unsympathetic governments The irony of silently selling away your dignity in a foreign country in exchange for a life better than what your own motherland could afford to bestow upon you The feeling of being swept up in the vortex of too many rapidly occurring changes as an illegal immigrant and the utter hopelessness of never really belonging anywhere Bulawayo may not be capable of subtlety or stringing beautiful words together into lengthy sentences fraught with imagery but she has a compelling and uniue voice of her own nonetheless I will surely look out for her other works in the futureA 35 stars that could not be rounded off to a 4 Darling is a dispossessed soul in conflict with everything she ever knew She grew up in Buluwayo Zimbabwe but never really names the country or its leader until in her acknowledgement at the end of the book In truly picturesue prose Darling shares her memories of violence pseudo religious events headed by Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro on the mountain and numerous incidences of hunger and the Making India Work joy of their childhood games like Catching Osama Ben Ladin Country game and Vasco Da Gama Cultural practices are embedded in her psyche since birth when a child s umbilical cord is buried in the ground to ensure the new baby s covenant with the soil and the forefathers Blessings are spread with the ritual pouring of tobacco and beer on the ground Their shanty town after their affluent home was destroyed in the suburbs was called Paradise and the group of childhood friends constantly went back to an affluent suburb called Budapest to steel guavas It was often their only way of getting something to eat for days on end Her childhood friends and family have endearing names such as Godknows Chipo Stina Sbho Notroubles Bastardhis little sister Fraction Mother of Bones and MessengerExpressions such as I m not talking to you chapped buttocks and I don t need any kaka school to make money you goat teeth and I really think flat face peeping buttocks Godknows is only saying it to please ugly face Bastard and Hey cabbage ears what are you bathing for ensure that theourney through this book becomes a warm colorful one despite the dark sad undertonesWith her Aunt Fostelina living in America married to a Ganaian Darling gets a chance to escape to a better life although she is an illegal immigrant Her experience of a United Nations of people around her in the USA is shared with wonder and nostalgia She is a member of the generation being born after the colonialist came to steal their country after the fall of colonialism and now the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe People are murdered including naturally born white Zimbabweans the school system collapse and all services crash down with the Chin. Then we are rushing then we are running then we are running and laughing and laughing and laughing ‘To play the country game we have to choose a country Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo like Somalia like Ira like Sudan like Haiti an.
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BOOK READ We Need New Names AUTHOR NoViolet Bulawayo – lavitamin.us
E Finally someone found the right words to describe how some immigrants feel in regards to home language integration Because we were not in our country we could not use our own languages and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised When we talked our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths staggered like drunken men Because we were not using our languages we said things we did not mean what we really wanted to say remained folded inside Trapped In America we did not always have the words It was only when were were by ourselves that we spoke in our real voices When we were alone we summoned the horses of our languages and mounted their backs and galloped past skyscrapers Always we were reluctant to come back and how they act most notably how they act differently how a dormant part of their being is being rekindled as soon as they encounter someone from home I keep watching Uncle Kojo whenever he is with someone from his country everything about him is different his laugh his talk his eating it s like something cuts him open to reveal this other person I don t even know The moments NoViolet Bulawayo describes are so real and so true they make my heart ache And so in the US Darling doesn t only have to deal with the racism and othering that she is subjected to she also witnesses what this displacement does to her aunt and uncle One of the most memorable scenes in the book is when Aunt Fostalina tries to order a bra and the American lady on the telephone is unwilling to understand her I know that she will stand there and start the conversation all over and say out loud in careful English all the things that she meant to say that she should have said to the girl on the phone but did not because she could not find the words at the time I know that in front of that mirror Aunt Fostalina will be articulate that English will come alive on her tongue and she will spit it like it s burning her mouth like it s poison like it s the only language she has ever known But as the years go by Darling becomes aware of troubling paradoxes within herself of her own detachment from her home country This detachment is marked by long silences in conversations particularly in the mobile phone conversations she has with her mother and her childhood friends back home She says she doesn t know what to reply She is unable to respond when she has conflicting answers in her head She struggles to deal with the paradoxes she is now beginning to know In general We Need New Names discusses so many existential themes in such a flawless manner I am absolutely shook In the first half of the book as Darling is still a little girl the writing is lighthearted clearly evoking the voice and mannerisms of a child Just last year I visited my little cousins both six in Cameroon and Bulawayo s writing style in the first half of the book was very reminiscent of their mode of speaking I was incredibly impressed with how well she managed to capture the voices of little kids But as Darling grows older the writing matures with her and I loved the increasing use of metaphors and similes This coming of age tale really dethrones all other novels of that genre when it comes to the writing styleThere are so many sentences and scenes that stuck with me which you can probably see by the amount of uotations used in this review one of which is the story of 11 year old Chipo who is pregnant When one day Darling and her friend try to perform an abortion they are interrupted by a woman from the village who disrupts the children s naivety and brings the much needed heaviness to the horrific situation The woman breaks down crying and reaches out to Chipo who has started to wail as well and then We are all watching and not knowing what to do because when grown ups cry it s not like you can ask them what s wrong or tell them to shut up there are Everwar (Cal Leandros, just no words for grown up s tears I mean WOW Again a perfectly captured real moment I have no wordsFirst person narration in the created character of Darling aged ten to about nineteen is sustained throughout the book However there are three passages where an authorial voice intervenes and indicates a transition The first lament is for people leaving their settled homes Then the second lament is for their lost countries The final lament is for illegals in a foreign land psychologically unable to return home These laments contain the most beautiful passages of writing that I encountered thus far in 2020The first lament How They Came describes the people internally displaced when their homes are flattened by bulldozers They arrive with the bare detritus of their belongings to set up in a makeshift slum with what bits of plastic and tin and wood they have been able to save from the government s destruction of their township houses The second lament How They Left explores the world wide scale of despair and departure This lament closes the first half of the book after a climax of chilling political thuggery and moves us on to the second half Darling s migration to the US Look at the children of the land leaving in droves leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth leaving everything that makes them who and what they are leaving because it is no longer possible to stay They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are youust cannot be the same Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortable lest they be asked to rise and leave knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth lest they be mistaken for those who want to claim the land as theirs Look at them leaving in droves arm in arm with loss and lost look at them leaving in droves The third lament How They Lived occurs before the closing passages of the book a howl of pain for the de racinated immigrant cut off from their parents back home but also from their own westernised children who did not beg us for stories of the land we had left behind They went to their computers and googled they looked at us with something between pity and horror and said Jeez you really come from there And when they asked us where we were from we exchanged glances and smiled with the shyness of child brides They said Africa We nodded yes What part of Africa We smiled Is it that part where vultures wait for famished children to die We smiled Where the life expectancy is thirty five years We smiled Is is there where dissidents shove AK 47s between women s legs We smiled Where people run about naked We smiled That part where they massacred each other We smiled Is it where the old president rigged the election and people were tortured and killed and a whole bunch of them put in prison and all there where they are dying of cholera oh my God yes we ve seen your country it s been on the news I mean how can you not fall in love with this book The writing is GORGEOUS Absolutely GORGEOUS These laments are so tragically beautiful and the ways in which they function as transition and narrative shifts is ust perfection I am shook to my core These laments are so raw and have a sense of urgency to them I want to shout them from the rooftopsLastly I wanna talk about the ending which absolutely destroyed me because again it is so true and therefore inevitable It comes to a clash between Darling and the ones she s left behind Where there was love and shared kinship before there s now a gaping hole a detachment that no bridge can span And so when Darling wants to share some well intentioned counsel to her friend Chipo after all those years she is rejected in the harshest of words If it s your country you have to love it to live in it and not leave it You have to gift for it no matter what to make it right You left it Darling my dear you left the house burning and you have the guts to tell me in that stupid accent that you were not even born with that doesn t even suit you that this is your country After that Darling stands up and throws her computer against the wall Now she has no place where she truly belongs There are no resolutions no reconciliations and there is no ending in Darling s story We Need New Names ust stops It s up to the reader s imagination to fill in the gaps I had a spirited chat with a fan of this book She naturally stated I was behaving in a sexist manner and implied with dark tones of voice that I was probably a racist too because I don t think this is a particularly good book and certainly don t think it s Booker worthyRating 275 of fiveThe Publisher Says A remarkable literary debut shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl s No Way Home journey out of Zimbabwe and to AmericaDarling is only ten years old and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world In Zimbabwe Darling and her friends steal guavas try to get the baby out of young Chipo s belly and grasp at memories of Before Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen before the school closed before the fathers left for dangerousobs abroadBut Darling has a chance to escape she has an aunt in America She travels to this new land in search of America s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant This is a book that really grew on me It starts off following a group of children in Zimbabwe Darling Stina Chipo Bastard and Godknows seemingly innocent children living in a not so innocent environment As a child Darling and friends lived in shanty towns in Zimbabwe after Mugabe s paramilitary police bulldozed down their homes They spent their days stealing guavasgetting into mischief and daydreaming about the typical things African kids do about eating good food and ultimately becoming rich overseas in places such as Dubai and the USAThis story is a sort of coming of age story of Darling What complicates Darling s coming of age story is her moving to Detroit Michigan to live with her auntAs is typical among Africans and also non Africans of course an escape to the West may not be what it seems Added to thatthe struggles and sacrifices they ve had to make We hid our real names gave false ones when asked We built mountains between us and them we dug rivers we planted thorns we had paid so much to be in America and we did not want to lose it all How is life like for an African immigrant in the USA or elsewhere in the West Bulawayo shows that it s definitely not a bed of roses There are so many stressors including listening to misconceptions about one s land and cultures and having to uickly adapt to a new cultureAdding to the stress is the fact that there are so many illegal immigrants in the States who feel stressed by the threat of deportation looming over themI really liked the book s cross cultural comparisons of Africa and the USA The linguistic aspects were the most interesting to me Because we were not in our country we could not use our own languages and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised When we talked our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths staggered like drunken men Reading some of the reviews I ve noticed that some people felt disconnected from the second half of the story the part where Darling is in the States I have to be contrary and say that that was the strongest part to me it resonated with me the most Perhaps it is because I have Zimbabwean relatives and I know many African immigrants who have experienced hardships after moving to the States and elsewhere I know a lot of immigrants who experience depression mental health issues and alcoholism due to their immigration I know so many of their stories and I feel that Bulawayo captured them very well. Am of the paradises of America Dubai Europe where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live For Darling that dream will come true But like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she's left behind.
Ese moving in to reap the benefits of a destroyed nation in dire poverty and despair The country s leader has been widely accused of ethnic cleansing orchestrating political violence and serial cheating at the pollsMillions of the inhabitants are fleeing in all wind directions to escape their own government troups How They LeftLook at the children of the land leaving in droves leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth leaving everything that makes them who and what they are leaving because it is no longer possible to stay They will never be the same again because you Sequins and Spurs just cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are youust cannot be the same Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortably lest they be asked to rise and leave knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth In America she goes to school and does very well But due to the high tuition fees slapped on foreign students she struggles to get a good education and works illegally to make ends meet She feels enslaved in a system that might throw her out at any moment Her soul remains in transition forever since she floats between two worlds which took away her freedom of choice In Zimbabwe she has no future neither in America with her illegal status No prosperity awaits her which ever choice she makes After thirteen years she feels disconnected from her old as well as new worldMY COMMENTSIt is an insightful read and an eye opening DK Adventures journey through the true suffering of immigrants I recommend this read to anybody who would like to experience the true feelings and thoughts of people in flightONE LITTLE GRIPE The reading was very confusing since dialogue mixed in with the rest of the text without any warning It made it very difficult to distinguish between conversations and narrative The method in this madness passed me by At first it worked since a nine year old girl shared her memories but then she becomes a grown up and by the time this tale is told she is already on her way to college yet the confusion remained in the textHowever the underlying sadness of the loss of identity and constant feelings of longing of a displaced person spoke to me The author captures the perpetual mourning of all first generation immigrants very well The detailed descriptions of Darling s environment were excellent I am glad I read this book about a young girl who had one leg in her motherland which gave her story swag and soul and her other leg in America who gave her the opportunity to tell her story Herourney gave her hope and strength of character NoViolet Buluwayo is the pseudonym of Elizabeth Tshele who changed her name to honor her mother and her home city No Violet means With Violet in NdebeleThe title reflects on her change of perception about her country her new destiny and the changes it all brought in her life A new name calls for new beginnings and to leave the past behind however difficult it seems to be Her generation was born free and cannot blame the devastation on the past but want to address the problems that was created in their own life times The implication is that her generation wants to get rid of a leader who ruled for too long and destroyed everythingIt was a good read indeed I loved this book I don t think I ve ever rated a book based mostly on its second last chapter but I think that s what I did here For the majority of this book I thought it was an average read The first part with the child narrator in Zimbabwe was ok but so scattered and not overly interesting how many times can the kids steal guavas eat guavas get constipated from guavas It felt like a bunch of observations and anecdotes some standalone short stories even not really a cohesive novel Then the child immigrates to America and grows up and there are some wonderful moments like discovering that you can buy almost anything over the phone that people throw away food regularly that toilets flush by themselves and great scenes and moments that made me smile at my own memories of discovering the supermarkets and the tv channels and people who won t touch a doorknob which I still don t understand Anyway The second last chapter titled How They Lived is a stunning piece of writing that brought all of the second half together for me It should be read by anyone who is anti immigration or who believes in the sweeping deportation of illegal immigrants Not only is it an agonizing account of how often people go to other countries because it s literally life or death not to steal your In The Name of God jobs or corrupt your world but it is a beautiful raw piece about the hidden pain of those who leave home The knowledge that this land is not your land and never will be and the strangeness and tension that doesn t uite leave A few months ago I went home after a long time and didn t notice at first that my whole demeanor had changed that invisible thing pressing down on me constantly in my new country was suddenly gone and I was light and ok and I could breathe againThat second last chapter knows why you promise your parents you ll be back next year the year after definitely next year next year for sure and often the parents left behind are thinking of you over here in the abstract they think you ve grown selfish and forgotten them that you don t love them enough to visit not that you have a real life and aob with barely any vacation time or a spouse or children in school and certainly not that you don t have enough money to go back because everyone in America is rich and so much time goes by and they don t know how much it aches to not go back they don t know because you don t tell them and you don t tell them because you try not to think about it and these misunderstandings fester until one day you call and there are nephews and nieces you don t know and there s nothing to say because you don t even know these people any or you get those middle of the night phone calls which at first seem to be annoying all these years and they still don t remember the time difference but that turn out to be the phone call you knew would come one day and it takes you two days to get home and you miss the funeral or worse you can t leave the country at all because you don t have the papers to get back in Bulawayo writes a small scene in this chapter about putting on loud music so no one will hear and wailing wailing wailing over the grief of a dead parent you never saw againI am the target audience for a book like this so my enthusiasm is skewed I m sure especially since I was lukewarm for the first half of the book Bulawayo is great at scenes and emotive writing but not yet too skilled with structure There were so many ideas that could have and should have had their own book instead of small mentions Child rape and child pregnancy incest AIDS Mugabe s bulldozing starvation suicide and Christian fundamentalism are ust a few of the topics crammed in here 35 rounded up Absolutely brilliant This book is sizzling with life Totally underrated The easiest five stars I ve given to a book this year NoViolet Bulawayo s novel We Need New Names is an extension of her Caine prize winning short story Hitting Budapest about a girl coming of age in Zimbabwe and the United States of America and boy am I happy that his literature prize exists and that it enabled her to work some magic on her brilliant short story This right here shows how important literary prizes and being given an opportunity financially and platform wise are It has been a long time since I ve read a book that has elicited such visceral emotions from me I laughed I cried This book made me incredibly happy and incredibly sad at the same time We Need New Names is one of my absolute new favorite books The characters the story the writing it is absolutely mind boggling and amazing what NoViolet Bulawayo has achieved here And by the way the main character absolutely hates Jane Eyre and the stupid decisions Jane makes in that book and I have never related to a character in my whole life In order to do this right we need new names Darling the protagonist of NoViolet Bulawayo s debut novel rackets around the Zimbabwean shanty town of Paradise with her friends Chipo 11 mysteriously pregnant and mute cheerful Godknows with shorts so thin his buttocks protrude Sbho the beautiful Bastard the aggressive and Stina the voice of reason Even the grim surroundings can t keep this little gang down for long as they run riot through the streets stealing guavas poking their noses into everything and scrawling on walls We Need New Names is a first person narrative following Darling as she grows up in Zimbabwe until about the age of 10 when she is sent to the US to live with her Aunt Fostalina first in Detroit Michigan DestroyedMichygen and then in Kalamazoo The first half of the book in Zimbabwe is set in the region called Matabeleland the capital city of which is Bulawayo Neither Zimbabwe nor Bulawayo are mentioned by name in the book nor is the President Robert Mugabe but there are very obvious references to him and to the country over the first decade of the 21st century the period during which the book is setEven though this is not a explicitly political novel I found it interesting that with the little knowledge that I had of Zimbabwe under the regime of Robert Mugabe most of which was acuired by reading Gappah s An Elegy for Easterly and Chigumadzi s These Bones Will Rise Again even I was able to put the pieces together and contextualise the novel in its time place and political landscape most notably the obvious reference to the Move the Rubbish campaign which forcibly cleared slum areas across the countryThe place where you grow up is the centre of your world It hardly needs a name In Darling s direct childhood account of her life in Paradise the absence of these defining names seems natural She is telling us about her life not about Zimbabwe or Bulawayo But to little Darling other places states and countries she would prefer to be in are definitely names In fact they are only names remote concepts and vague ideas nothing substantial The reality will be something other than the places imagined From the beginning of the book Darling is dreaming of going to myAmerica to DestroyedMichygen which gloriously seems to be everything that the makeshift slum Paradise in unnamed Bulawayo is not But when her aunt is coming to fetch her and Darling does get to Detroit reality hits hard Americans have only the vaguest idea of Africa and Darling has to face othering in every aspect of her life While Darling adjusts to her new life and the new problems it brings with it underneath it she is aware that something has been broken that she will never be able to mend Leaving your country is like dying and when you come back you are like a ghost returning to earth roaming around with missing gaze in your eyes Darling is existentially living in America while emotionally in some other construct in her memory One cannot shake the feeling that Darling would ve been in need of therapy or at least a person whom she could trust and pour her heart out And even though over time she manages to settle in in school and find new friends there are times though that no matter how much food I eat I find the food does nothing for me like I am hungry for my country and nothing is going to fix that Yep nothing is going to fix that We Need New Names reminded me a lot of my own father and how he deals with his displacement in a country that is not his home There were so many moments in this novel that were so well captured and relatable they put a chill down my spin. D not even this one we live in – who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart'Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise which of course is no such thing It isn't all bad though There's mischief and adventure games of Find bin Laden stealing guavas singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voicesThey dre.
We Need New Names 2013 was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize making her the first African female writer to earn this distinction She has begun work on a memoir project