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Book review | We need new names by NoViolet Bulawayo


This is the type of book that’s hard to put down once you open the first page in the bookshop. It forces you to find the nearest Cafe, order a cup of tea and keep reading.

Set in modern-day Zimbabwe, we see life through the eyes of a 10year old Darling and her friends trying hard to survive in the slums of a ghettoized township called Paradise.

The group scavenging the neighbouring suburbs in search of Guava trees to steal some fruits eat. They are funny and interesting, and each character has her own story going on. But the main story centers around Darling and he constant dream to escape the daily struggle and move to America with her Aunt.’

When the time comes, she is torn about leaving her friends but soon settles into her life in Michigan, which she and her friends back home christened Destroyedmicheygen.

The author injects a lot of humour in her writing style, and Darling’s narration is both funny and raw. She and her friends make you feel like you are in on their conversations, part of the inner circle. You tend to see the world as they see it.

Despite the harrowing hardships of their world, you can’t help but chuckle and laugh your way through it.

And in the end, through Darling we realize that duality that most Africans endure, to want to leave a home you love for a better life elsewhere and then to painfully long for that home once you’ve left it.

We need new names is such a triumph for NoViolet Bulawayo.

The first chapter of the book, “Hitting Budapest”, initially presented as a story, won the 2011 Caine Prize.¬†We Need New Names was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2013), the Guardian First Book Award shortlist (2013), and a Barnes & Noble Discover Award finalist (2013). It was the winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature (2013), and won the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for debut work of fiction. It won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction (2013).

For a debut novel, this is a huge accomplishment and we are itching to read the next book from her.