We Need New Names

We Need New Names

A Novel

Book - 2013 | 1st ed.
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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.
Publisher: New York : Reagan Arthur Books, 2013.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780316230810
Characteristics: 292 p. ; 22 cm.


From the critics

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Mar 14, 2018

A wonderful book that really takes you into the mind of the first-person narrator. It will challenge your conceptions of what it means to grow up in a developing country and make you realize that almost everyone in the US internalizes some bias toward other places. It also presents a poignant and wrenching view on the lives of immigrants to the US.

While the book is about a girl from Zimbabwe, the author rightly says that the story itself is meant to capture realities that immigrants from all over the world face when coming to America. The clash between cultures, the internal debate between staying connected with one's birth country versus assimilating to America.

Dec 09, 2017

I've always disagreed with the idea that books are mere "escapism." I would argue that good books offer the exact opposite, which is engagement with the world. Or if they are escapism, the world being what it is, escape can be a healthy thing. All this to say, reading books from other countries and cultures is more important than ever. NoViolet Bulawayo is a Zimbabwean author, and her debut novel "We Need New Names" explores the stereotypes about Africa and the culture clash when its white protagonist comes to America to live with relatives. Other recent African books worth checking out are "Behold the Dreamers" and "Americanah."

Nov 02, 2017


Sep 04, 2017

What a great title: We Need New Names. And when it's spoken in the book, the context is benign, part of the kids' games distracting them from the oppression of life under Mugabe and AIDS. Yet at a deeper level, the book speaks to a more profound urgency for change, and the author's voice is brazenly oral: lyrical, harsh and unsparing, full of rich textures and musicality even as what she depicts is often brutal. Though less compellingly told, Darling's transition to Detroit charts different, more ambitious territory.
Bulawayo is a tremendously gifted writer; her voice is gorgeously oral, with an immediacy that demands attention. With contemporaries like Chimamanda Adichie and Yaa Gyaasi, Bulawayo brings a distinctive perspective and narrative voice to narratives from Africa, a continent of cultures, countries and literary traditions.

Nov 15, 2015

I enjoy reading books set in other cultures and places - it's a great way to learn about the world. Writing from the perspective of a 10 year old girl gave the book a kind of innocence, but at the same time there was a moment in the book where I needed to put it down because I was about to be confronted with something that made me very uncomfortable.

PoMoLibrary Aug 21, 2015

From our 2015 #80DayRead Adult Summer Reading Club traveler Kate: Stephen King spoke about avoiding passive voice for good literature: Bulawayo takes this and soars with it. Packed with start contrasts between childlike innocence and the violence of the setting, Bulawayo pulls the reader along rapidly through the story: spitting you out at the end amazed at what you just read. Hard to put down.

Jun 22, 2015

This novel was expanded from a 2011 Caine Prize story. The first part, set in Zimbabwe and told from the perspective of a child, provides a portrait of life under the latter part of Mugabe's reign; the second part, set in Detroit and told from the perspective of a teenager, presents the problems of immigration and assimilation. An interesting read.

eringate Apr 24, 2015

I really enjoyed this book...up until the time she arrived in America. I guess when you're describing your native country to readers (most of whom have never been) the words full richer and much more alive. Post displacement, the story takes a major tumble and I found myself skipping past some of the pages. I would recommend this story to anyone who is interested in reading it and may even read more of Ms. Bulawayo's work in the future.

Apr 04, 2015

I couldn't quite become engrossed. In all fairness, my culture and the author's may just be too far apart. I don't know what the problem is, but I eventually stopped listening. I can see how it could be an important book for some people.

Feb 11, 2015

Bulawayo is a writer to watch for. At the beginning, the narrative is set in a war and disease-ravaged Zimbabwe. 10 yr old Darling and her buddies live in a shanty town next to a rich white enclave. Along with playing "Find Bin Laden", they steal and then gorge themselves on guavas from the rich people's trees. Their life is hard but they have each other. Eventually, Darling emigrates to Michigan to live with her hard-working aunt. The transition is extremely abrupt and perhaps this is meant to signify Darling's experience. In this second section, the narrative felt more like vignettes as compared with the first section. Although stylistically this was somewhat challenging, Darling's voice is authentic and the prose is lyrical, even when describing horrifying events. I agree with one reviewer about the gratuitous violence at the very end of the book but will say no more about this to avoid spoilers.

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