We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Posted September 14, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

We Need New Names by NoViolet BulawayoTitle: We Need New Names (Goodreads)
Author: NoViolet Bulawayo
Narrator: Robin Miles
Published: Chatto & Windus, 2013
Pages: 290
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends growing up in what they call Paradise in Zimbabwe. This novel explores the struggles faced growing up in this landlocked country, which isn’t all-bad; the kids find ways to manage and even have fun. When Darling got a little older she was sent to America where a whole new set of mischief and adventures began.

Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo (real name Elizabeth Tshele) does an interesting job of exploring life growing up in Zimbabwe and then learning to live in America. A culture clash, that is not unlike her own story. Darling and her friends seem to make their own fun, from playing made up games like Country Game and stealing guavas. But Zimbabwe is politically unstable and they have suffered because of the white people. There are some interesting insights about life in this country and I really enjoyed learning about Darling’s life.

Then the novel changes drastically and Darling starts her life in America. This might be an improvement in her life style but this doesn’t mean she was not missing her home. The culture clash was the most interesting part of this book, from stealing guavas to survive and making up games to fast food and spending her afternoons with new friends watching redtube. This was a completely different life and story and it was interesting to compare the two and follow Darling’s journey.

At times in the novel I got confused; especially when Darling refers to Shanghai and Budapest, I couldn’t work out how she got to these locations but then worked out these are different sections of Paradise and named after the ethnic groupings. I know, I’m a little slow and a little surprised I didn’t pick up on this right away but Darlings language took me a while to work out and fully understand what she was saying.

While this book is easy to read (once you get to know Darling’s narrative style), this can be hard hitting. The novel is confrontational and will give you some insight into an African life and the struggles facing children in places like Zimbabwe. Struggles you might never have thought of and moving them to a place like America might give them a better chance in life but then you have a whole new set of struggles to understand.

Longlisted for the Man Booker and I was recommend this book by another book blogger (Jennifer from The Relentless Reader), I am really glad I read We Need New Names. The novel took me on an interesting journey and I feel I learnt from it and that is what makes for a great book. I don’t think it will win the Man Booker, but I hope it make the shortlist as well. I wouldn’t call this novel a typical literary prize nomination but a novel that deserves some boost in sales from its nomination.

0 responses to “We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

  1. Andi

    The author is an alumna of the English dept from which I graduated, and I now work for the university. As you can imagine, we’re all REALLY excited!

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