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We Need New Names: A Novel (NoViolet Bulawayo) [Kindle Edition]

NoViolet Bulawayo
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A remarkable literary debut -- shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize! The unflinching and powerful story of a young girl's journey out of Zimbabwe and to America.

Darling 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 dangerous jobs abroad.

But 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 are perilously few. NoViolet Bulawayo's debut calls to mind the great storytellers of displacement and arrival who have come before her-from Junot Diaz to Zadie Smith to J.M. Coetzee-while she tells a vivid, raw story all her own.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Bulawayo’s engaging and often disturbing semiautobiographical first novel, 10-year-old Darling describes, with childlike candor and a penetrating grasp of language, first, her life in Zimbabwe during its so-called Lost Decade and then her life as a teenager in present-day America. What is at once delightful and disturbing is the fact that young Darling and her friends are so resilient amidst chaos. Darling must cope with absentee parents gone to who-knows-where, seeking jobs and a better life; abusive adults; and murdering bands of self-appointed police in a country gone horribly wrong. Yet she evinces a sense of chauvinism regarding her corrupt homeland when she joins her aunt in America. There she discovers a country that has fallen into a different kind of chaos, primarily economic. She and her new family struggle while America fails to live up to her hopes. Ultimately what lingers is Bulawayo’s poignant insights into how a person decides what to embrace and what to surrender when adapting to a new culture in a new land. --Donna Chavez


Winner of the 2014 PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction

Winner of the 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction

Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Booker Prize

Winner of the 2014 Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Legacy Award for fiction

Winner of the 2013 Etisalat Prize for Literature

Finalist for the 2013 Guardian First Book Award

One of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 2013

One of National Public Radio's Great Reads of 2013

"A deeply felt and fiercely written debut novel ... The voice Ms. Bulawayo has fashioned for [Darling] is utterly distinctive - by turns unsparing and lyrical, unsentimental and poetic, spiky and meditative." --- Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"Bulawayo describes all this in brilliant language, alive and confident, often funny, strong in its ability to make Darling's African life immediate ... She demonstrates a striking ability to capture the uneasiness that accompanies a newcomers arrival in America." -- Uzodinma Iweala, The New York Times Book Review

"Writing with poignant clarity and hard-hitting imagery, Bulawayo delivers this first work as an offering of hope." --The New York Daily News

"Bulawayo mixes imagination and reality, combining an intuitive attention to detail with startling, visceral imagery ... This book is a provocative, haunting debut from an author to watch." - Elle

"Bulawayo, whose prose is warm and clear and unfussy, maintains Darling's singular voice throughout, even as her heroine struggles to find her footing. Her hard, funny first novel is a triumph." -- Entertainment Weekly

"Nearly as incisive about the American immigrant experience as it is about the failings of Mugabe's regime [in Zimbabwe]." -- National Public Radio

"Bulawayo's first novel is original, witty and devastating." ---People Magazine

"Ms. Bulawayo's artistry is such that we can't help but see ourselves in that wider world ... Darling is a dazzling life force with a rich, inventive language all her own, funny and perceptive but still very much a child ... It would be hard to overstate the freshness of Ms. Bulawayo's language, with words put together in utterly surprising ways that communicate precisely." ---Judy Wertheimer, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"How does a writer tell the story of a traumatised nation without being unremittingly bleak? NoViolet Bulawayo manages it by forming a cast of characters so delightful and joyous that the reader is seduced by their antics at the same time as finding out about the country's troubles." -- Leyla Sanai, The Independent

"Bulawayo has written a powerful novel. Her gift as a visual storyteller should propel her to a bright future -- a dream fulfilled, no matter the country"-- Korina Lopez, USA Today

"NoViolet Bulawayo is a powerful, authentic, nihilistic voice - feral, feisty, funny - from the new Zimbabwean generation that has inherited Robert Mugabe's dystopia." -Peter Godwin, betselling author of The Fear and When a Crocodile Eats the Sun

"NoViolet Bulawayo has created a world that lives and breathes - and fights, kicks, screams, and scratches, too. She has clothed it in words and given it a voice at once dissonant and melodic, utterly distinct." -Aminatta Forna, author of The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones

"An exquisite and powerful first novel, filled with an equal measure of beauty and horror and laughter and pain. The lives (and names) of these characters will linger in your mind, and heart, long after you're done reading the book. NoViolet Bulawayo is definitely a writer to watch." -Edwidge Danticat, award-winning author of Brother, I'm Dying and Breath, Eyes, Memory

"Fans of Junot Díaz, who, as fiction editor of Boston Review, published NoViolet Bulawayo's early work, will love her debut novel, We Need New Names ...Bulawayo's use of contemporary culture (the kids play a game in which they hunt for bin Laden and, later, text like their lives depend on it), as well as her fearless defense of the immigrant experience through honoring the cadence of spoken language, sets this book apart-on the top shelf." -- Kristy Davis,

One of National Public Radio's Great Reads of 2013

One of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year for 2013

Finalist for the 2013 Guardian First Book Award

"[Bulawayo] shows the beaming promise of a young Junot Diaz. With a style all her own-one steeped in wit and striking imagination-she movingly details the complexities of the immigrant experience."—The American Prospect

"A stunning debut... The hyper-imaginative and often surreal ways Bulawayo's narrator describes people, places, and experiences almost sound like things imagined in her sleep."—Flavorwire

Product Details

  • File Size: 889 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0316230812
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (May 21, 2013)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0092XHU2M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,712 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Debut May 18, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My thoughts:

- An enlightening debut that takes the reader to Zimbabwe during the Mugabe regime. The subject matter is a bit grim as the novel opens with Darling and her friends leaving their shanty town to roam the finer neighborhoods in search of guava for food.

- We learn of the daily routines of the displaced civilians: the adults who neglect children in search for work in the mines and the borders; the games the children play to fight boredom and make sense of the dire futures.

- The author covers the political unrest and promise for "change" in the upcoming election; the hope, misogyny, and hypocrisy of religious doctrine; the social ills and financial ruin that befall a country under a corrupt dictatorship.

- The later half of the story explores the cultural nuances, language challenges, assimilation challenges as Darling relocates to America to stay with an aunt. The environmental differenced, culture shock, and disillusionment with an impoverished Detroit, Michigan.

- Homesickness plagues both aunt and niece, and the realities of their one-way journey weighs heavily on the hearts and guilt burdens their sub-conscious; but the determination to make it in the US is the driving force toward success, so they work very hard and long for permanent, legal residency.

- The author gave me enough to easily empathize and sympathize with Darling, her friends and family. I enjoyed Darling's points of view, her voice, and her innocence.

- I absolutely LOVED the cross-cultural references, nuances, similarities/differences, and challenges: Interactions with non-Africans, African Americans; the notion of smiling; differences in child-rearing; the significance of a "name" and the need for new ones; views of education, the stigma and impact of AIDS, the dismantling of the family unit, etc.

- I'll definitely consider future work from this author.
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Perfect But Close May 25, 2013
I have read quite a few books about the tragedy that seems to be pervasive in Africa - would-be liberators from tyranny and corruption take over, only to become more tyrannical and corrupt than their predecessors. "We Need New Names" tells the same story, but from a new perspective, at least for me - that of a 10 year-old girl whose life "before" has vanished into poverty and an absence of structure of any sort. The first half of the book tells the story of Darling in this environment, and the second half brings her to live with her aunt in the United States - in "destroyed" Michigan. She is something of a lost soul in both locales, even as she adapts and seems to fit into both places as best she can.

Ms. Bulawayo's writing is beyond impressive - stark yet fluid, cynical yet sweet. The book seems so real (not that a 60+ white guy in Florida would know), and I must say that I agreed with the blurbs on the back cover, which use words like "powerful," "beauty," "laughter," "pain," "nihilstic," "feral," "feisty" and "funny." At the same time, I can't quite give it five stars because notwithstanding its reality it keeps the reader at a distance and doesn't really tell a story as such; the ending is consistent with this, as the book just sort of ends. At the same time, I recognize that the gulf between Darling's story and my own life may just be too wide to create the kind of engaging empathy that I found the book lacking. So I hope Ms. Bulawayo will forgive me if I "only" give this very good book 4.5 stars.

There seems to be a new crop of authors writing about Africans becoming strangers in a strange land - "Ghana Must Go" and "Americanah" among them - but it's going to be hard for any of them to top "We Need New Names," and I urge you to read it.
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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Straight Outta' Zimbabwe June 30, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I make a point of trying to read whatever African fiction comes across my path, but this is only the second work I've read from Zimbabwe (the other was Shimmer Chinodya's 1991 book, Harvest of Thorns). From my amateur perspective, it appears that the bulk of post-colonial African fiction concerned itself with recounting the colonial condition, the struggle for independence, and the disappointments of life under native dictators. Zimbabwe's independence came a bit later than most, but Harvest of Thorns manages to hit all three of these themes quite well, and so I would recommend it as well worth reading before you pick this book up.

What this collection of linked stories about a young girl named Darling does, is explore what seems to be the current fixation of the African fiction that makes it to America -- namely, getting the hell out of Africa to a better place, and the toll that takes on the soul (see, for example Americanah and Ghana Must Go). In the first half of the book, we see contemporary Zimbabwe through the eyes of 10-year-old Darling and her daily life in a shanty-town. It's a rich and colorful portrait of a place, but it's hard not to feel like each chapter/story was designed to highlight some particular issue. For example, one chapter focuses on a hucksterish Christian pastor, another on the toll of AIDS, another on Chinese penetration of Africa, another on rape, another on inept international aid assistance, another on mob rule. And although Bylawayo does a nice job weaving all of these issues into Darling's life, via her family and friends, some readers might feel like there was a checklist of topics that she was ticking off with each part.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The experience of the displaced
We see the failed state of Zimbabwe through the eyes a young girl (Darling) and her friends living in slum called Paradise in the first half of the book. Read more
Published 1 hour ago by DJ Arboretum
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this book!
The clarity and honesty, the incredible immediacy and vividness of this writing are gorgeous. Such a clear voice, such power!! Everyone should read this book and learn!!
Published 12 days ago by Elizabeth Trimbach
4.0 out of 5 stars GOOD READ
Published 16 days ago by Sharon Reese
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Written uniquely and beautifully. Well done NoViolet.
Published 17 days ago by Perpetua Tingini
4.0 out of 5 stars Interpreting Reality
Children can adapt to almost anything. It's amazing, but it's true. Noviolet's child-narrator calmly and evenly describes the hunger, the horrors, and the deprivations that she... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Laurel Macdonald
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting read .. well written book
Published 27 days ago by Sudha Mukhi
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!
Sometimes, very seldom actually, I come across a book that I can honestly refer to as a masterpiece. Read more
Published 29 days ago by twocentspluschange
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
So well written in a language that is familiar to us in Southern Africa!
Published 1 month ago by Nhamo Ndebele
5.0 out of 5 stars Poverty in Zimbabwe and coming of age in the USA
In her debut novel, Bulawayo tells the story of Darling, a ten-year-old girl in Zimbabwe who wanders the streets with her friends before going to live in the United States with her... Read more
Published 1 month ago by David Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars portrait of Zimbabwe
Love her use of language to set the scene and the action. Learned about daily life in Zimbabwe and the pull of the heart on the exiled.
Published 1 month ago by Judith Campos
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