Review – We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

My African literature read took me all the way to Zimbabwe through NoViolet Bulawayo’s book – We Need New Names. This book is about Darling, a 10 year old girl living in the lower middle class area in Zimbabwe. It tells of her time growing up in an under privileged neighborhood where she and her friends spend their days stealing guavas from the neighboring upper class neighborhood near their home.

The book is hilarious, interesting and has a unique writing style. Her friends whom she spends most of the time with are to me the bloodline of the book while she is Zimbabwe. To elaborate further, they made the book interesting while Darling was in Zimbabwe. She later moves to the United States to live with her aunt Fostalina.

The book is in two parts, the first part is set in Zimbabwe, where we see the protagonist Darling spending her early teens. The second part is in United States of America where Darling spends her late teens and adult years. I loved the first part of the book probably because of the adventures of the children in the area where Darling lived and also how the writer describes their escapades.

The first part also demonstrated an Africa filled with poverty, a desperation of people wanting to leave a country for a better life abroad. It shows how everyone wants to be anywhere but Zimbabwe. The second part describes a diaspora that is full of immigrants in search of a life, identity and a sense of belonging. For Darling, America is not what she expected, it is not the America of her dreams but a place where she struggles to make sense of things.

As the protagonist, I loved Darling’s thought process her world view and how she reacted to situations around her. Her supporting characters in Zimbabwe were also interesting especially because they helped develop Darling’s personality and move the plot along.

I felt disconnected after she left Zimbabwe, while other reviews love this second part of the book, I felt lost, mainly because I haven’t experienced life fully living abroad as an immigrant. Maybe someone living and working there could relate to this part of the book.

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