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We Need New Names: A Novel (NoViolet Bulawayo) by [Bulawayo, NoViolet]
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4.0 out of 5 stars 261 customer reviews

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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


"Bulawayo's novel is not just a stunning piece of literary craftsmanship but also a novel that helps elucidate today's world" -- Felicity Capon Daily Telegraph "The challenging rhythm and infectious language of NoViolet Bulawayo's emotionally articulate novel turns a familar tale of immigrant displacement into a heroic ballad. Bulawayo's courage and her literary scope shine out from this outstanding debut" Daily Mail "Darling is 10 when we first meet her, and the voice Ms. Bulawayo has fashioned for her is utterly distinctive - by turns unsparing and lyrical, unsentimental and poetic, spiky and meditative... stunning novel... remarkably talented author" -- Michiko Kakutani New York Times "Often heartbreaking, but also pulsing with colour and energy" -- Kate Saunders The Times (Saturday Review) "Extraordinary" -- Gaby Wood Daily Telegraph "Creates a fictional world that is immediate, fresh, and identifies the arrival of a talented writer" -- Francesca Angelini Sunday Times (Culture) "NoViolet Bulawayo uses words potently, blending brutality and lyricism in her unflinching, bittersweet story of displacement" -- Anita Sethi Observer "A really talented and ambitious author" -- Helon Habila Guardian "A debut that blends wit and pain... heartrending... wonderfully original" -- Margaret Busby Independent "We Need New Names is full of life -- you can almost feel the sun on your arms and hear the birds in the trees -- and Bulawayo is certainly one to watch" Stylist "A powerful new African voice" Pride Magazine "Bulawayo's use of contemporary well as her fearless defense of the immigrant experience through honoring the cadence of spoken language, sets this book apart---on the top shelf" Oprah magazine "A brilliantly poignant tale of what it is to be an outsider in a strange land" Glamour "Written in sharp, snappy prose, this is a raw and thought-provoking debut" Easy Living "Enthralling... a provocative, hauting debut from an author to watch" Elle (US)

Product Details

  • File Size: 943 KB
  • Print Length: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books (May 21, 2013)
  • Publication Date: May 21, 2013
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0092XHU2M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,002 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mocha Girl VINE VOICE on 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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Format: Hardcover
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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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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