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We Need New Names

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Overview 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 See more details below
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Overview

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.

Winner of the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction
Winner of the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction

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  • We Need New Names
    We Need New Names  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

A novel as unique as its author name, NoViolet Bulawayo's We Need New Names enables us to see Zimbabwe and our own country through the inquisitive eyes of a ten-year-old girl. The Africa that she inhabits seems as unfamiliar to us as her buddies named Bastard and Godknows, but the America to which she emigrates has a strangeness that immigrants know better than the rest of us. This tale of assimilation and identity has a rawness that somehow retains its charm. Quite simply unforgettable.

The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
…deeply felt and fiercely written…the voice Ms. Bulawayo has fashioned for her [narrator, Darling] is utterly distinctive—by turns unsparing and lyrical, unsentimental and poetic, spiky and meditative…Using her gift for pictorial language, Ms. Bulawayo gives us snapshots of Zimbabwe that have the indelible color and intensity of a folk art painting…Ms. Bulawayo gives us a sense of Darling's new life [in the United States] in staccato takes that show us both her immersion in and her alienation from American culture. We come to understand how stranded she often feels, uprooted from all the traditions and beliefs she grew up with, and at the same time detached from the hectic life of easy gratification in America.
The New York Times Book Review - Uzodinma Iweala
Bulawayo describes all this in brilliant language, alive and confident, often funny, strong in its ability to make Darling's African life immediate without resorting to the kind of preaching meant to remind Western readers that African stories are universal, our local characters globalized, our literature moving beyond the postcolonial into what the novelist Taiye Selasie has best characterized as Afropolitan…Bulawayo is clearly a gifted writer. She demonstrates a striking ability to capture the uneasiness that accompanies a newcomer's arrival in America, to illuminate how the reinvention of the self in a new place confronts the protective memory of the way things were back home.
Publishers Weekly
The short story that was adapted to become the first chapter of this debut novel by current Stegner fellow Bulawayo won the Caine Prize in 2011, known as the African Booker. Indeed the first half of the book, which follows a group of destitute but fearless children in a ravaged, never-named African country, is a remarkable piece of literature. Ten-year-old Darling is Virgil, leading us through Paradise, the shantytown where she and her friends Bastard, Godknows, Sbho, and Stina live and play. “Before,” they lived in real houses and went to school—that is, before the paramilitary policemen came and destroyed it all, before AIDS, before Darling’s friend Chipo was impregnated by her own grandfather. Now they roam rich neighborhoods, stealing bull guavas and hiding in trees while gangs raid white homes. Darling and her friends invent new names for themselves from American TV and spent their time trying to get “rid of Chipo’s stomach.” Abruptly, Darling lands with her aunt in America, seen as an ugly place, and absorbs the worst of its culture—Internet porn, obscene consumerism, the depreciation of education. Darling may not be worse off, but her life has not improved in any meaningful way. When Bulawayo won the Caine Prize, she said, “I want to go and write from home. It’s a place which inspires me. I don’t feel inspired by America at all,” and the chapters set outside of Africa make this abundantly clear. In this promising novel’s early chapters, Bulawayo’s use of English is disarmingly fresh, her arrangement of words startling. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (June)
Kirkus Reviews
A loosely concatenated novel in which Darling, the main character and narrator of the story, moves from her traditional life in Zimbabwe to a much less traditional one in the States. For Darling, life in Zimbabwe is both difficult and distressing. Her wonderfully named friends include Chipo, Bastard, Godknows and Sbho, and she also has a maternal figured called Mother of Bones. The most pathetic of Darling's friends is Chipo, who's been impregnated by her own grandfather and who undergoes a brutal abortion. The friends have little to do but go on adventures that involve stealing guavas in more affluent neighborhoods than the one they come from (disjunctively named "Paradise"), an act that carries its own punishment since the constipation they experience afterward is almost unbearable. Violence and tragedy become a casual and expected part of their lives. In one harrowing scene, their "gang" attacks a white-owned farm and both humiliates and brutalizes the owners. Also, after a long period of absence and neglect, Darling's father returns, suffering from AIDS. Spiritual sustenance is rare and comes in the form of an evangelist with the unlikely but ripe name of Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro. Eventually, and rather abruptly, Darling moves from the heat and dirt of Zimbabwe to live with her Aunt Fostalina and Uncle Kojo in the American Midwest, a place that seems so unlike her vision of America that it feels unreal. In America, Darling must put up with teasing that verges on abuse and is eager to return to Zimbabwe, for her aunt is working two jobs to pay for a house in one of the very suburbs that Darling and her friends used to invade. Bulawayo crafts a moving and open-eyed coming-of-age story.
From the Publisher
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, Oprah.com

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

Library Journal
Caine Prize-winning Bulawayo's debut novel opens in a Zimbabwean shantytown called Paradise, where life is a daily struggle for sustenance as the regime destroys homes and closes schools. As ten-year-old Darling and her friends roam the streets, turning their quest for food into a game, Darling makes wry observations about her country's social ills that belie her tender age. Given the opportunity to move to Michigan with her aunt Fostalina, Darling faces a different challenge: how to transition from abject poverty to ostentatious excess. With an acute sense of irony, she observes refrigerators stuffed with food even as the women diet rigorously to fit into Victoria's Secret underwear and the dog whose room is larger than most homes in Zimbabwe. In a poignant scene, Darling sniffs at a guava and is transported to her homeland. VERDICT As Bulawayo effortlessly captures the innate loneliness of those who trade the comfort of their own land for the opportunities of another, Darling emerges as the freshest voice yet to spring from the fertile imaginations of talented young writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Dinaw Mengestu, who explore the African diaspora in America. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/12.]—Sally Bissell, Lee Cty. Lib. Syst., Estero, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316230810
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/21/2013
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 197,882
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

NoViolet's story "Hitting Budapest," the opening chapter of the novel, won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing. NoViolet's other work has been shortlisted for the 2009 SA PEN Studzinsi Award, and has appeared in Callaloo, The Boston Review, Newsweek, and The Warwick Review, as well as in anthologies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK. NoViolet recently earned her MFA at Cornell University, where her work has been recognized with a Truman Capote Fellowship. She will be attending Stanford in the fall as a Wallace Stegner Fellow for 2012-2014. NoViolet was born and raised in Zimbabwe.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sheila Trask for Readers' Favorite A sad and beauti

    Reviewed by Sheila Trask for Readers' Favorite

    A sad and beautiful coming-of-age story of a child and her country, NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names, takes us to Zimbabwe during the Mugabe era. Here, 10-year-old Darling copes with extreme poverty, hunger, and near-homelessness in her ironically-named shantytown, Paradise. We join the smart, observant Darling and her roving band of friends as they hunt for the best places to steal guavas and play frequent games of “find bin Laden.” Bulawayo’s knowledgeable and empathetic descriptions allow us to feel their hunger but also their friendships. Most of all, we see them becoming adults before their time, as in a wrenching scene where the friends try to figure out how to “get the baby out” of 11-year-old Chipo’s stomach.
     
    Bulawayo looks unflinchingly at harsh economic, racial, family, and personal experiences in Zimbabwe, through Darling’s perceptive eyes. Later in the novel —- which reads more like a series of linked vignettes than an action-filled story -— Darling travels to America to escape the dire situation at home. However, Detroit, Michigan is hardly the answer to all of her problems. In fact, her new home brings new complications, which Bulawayo covers in chapters focused on technology, music, capitalism, violence, and pornography. These later sections feel a little forced, as though the author had a predetermined list of issues to address, though her observations are spot on. A girl who never had enough to eat is appropriately alarmed by an American culture that celebrates a combination of overeating and extreme dieting, for instance.

    Lyrical at times, no reader will forget Darling’s first experience of the Michigan snow that came silently to swallow everything up with its whiteness. We Need New Names is not a speedy read. Darling takes her time expressing herself, and there is no anticipation of crisis to create momentum. Readers will, however, appreciate Bulawayo’s unique voice, her cross-cultural comparisons, and the compassion with which she portrays one girl’s international journey toward womanhood.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2014

    Excellent style of writing by NoViolet Bulawayo. The author's fi

    Excellent style of writing by NoViolet Bulawayo. The author's firm use of language to convey the emotion, describe the setting and navigate the reader through the plot is very refreshing. The reader gets introduced to the mindset of the characters through dialogue and the narrative in a manner that I find very fascinating. I end up getting a better idea of what life and politics in Zimbabwe is. It is a refreshing style of writing. I also saw it in Triple Agent, Double Cross. I also like the tone of the story, which suits the genre perfectly. A job well done.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 18, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    'We Need New Names' is a heartfelt and eye-opening literary fict

    'We Need New Names' is a heartfelt and eye-opening literary fiction novel that tells the moving story of Darling, a young girl who finds her way out of her home village in Zimbabwe to the United States. We see her struggles and watch her overcome obstacles that we couldn't even imagine. She finally makes it to the United States to live with her aunt, only to find that the land of freedom and possibilities is incredibly limited to her because of her legal status as an immigrant.

    This story was masterfully told with such emotion and insight that it felt like I was right alongside Darling during her life in Zimbabwe throughout her journey to America and beyond. Darling is a fantastic and unusual main character for the novel - she's just a young girl who migrates to America from Africa. However, her preconceptions, hopes, determination, and beliefs are palpable to the reader to the point where my heart broke for her at times, while at others I was cheering her on. The writing was conversational being from Darling's point of view, but it also was insightful and intelligent. The pace was steady and flowed seamlessly, which made this a completely fascinating novel. There's so much more to the plot that Darling's life and journey to the United States - the reader realizes things they had never thought about before; things that may have never crossed their minds otherwise. It brings a wonderful sense of understanding and eye-opening realizations to the reader throughout the entire book. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary fiction and literary fiction!

    Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    I thought this book was quite good. NoViolet Bulawayo has a uniq

    I thought this book was quite good. NoViolet Bulawayo has a unique writing style that can really draw a reader in. Bulawayo has is skills at twisting past, and present, in colorful storytelling skills really does make her an author to keep one's eye on. The reason why I do not give it 5 stars is because there was some holes in the later chapters for me, nothing significant just felt a little rushed. However, I enjoyed the halt in the ending and look forward to reading more by Bulawayo. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is a collection of short

    We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is a collection of short stories or essays in sequential order that make up a novel. The stories are gritty and honest, about an African girl named Darling, who is struggling with her culture and ready to go to America.

    I loved this novel. It kind of reminded me of my favorite collection of short stories, Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, which contains stories of struggling African children in some questionable situations.  

    Plus, who can resist a book by an author whose name is NoViolet???  

    Read anything gritty lately?  

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 2, 2013

    I was disappointed with We Need New Names

    I was expecting something more interesting and intriguing. Sorry to say I didn't find it very good. I probably wouldn't read another book by that author.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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