What it is: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is a story about Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl who has the opportunity to leave behind her poor, corrupt country to try to make a new life in the USA. It’s a tale of growing up, but Darling also has to acclimate to a new culture while navigating loneliness, language, and poverty and learning what “home” really means.
What I liked about it: Darling doesn’t evaluate each of her homes–she doesn’t say one is better than another–but rather analyzes the beauties and flaws in each. The book’s settings (Zimbabwe and USA) are divided relatively equally, and she continues to grapple with that division in her own life throughout the entire novel. I liked the stream of consciousness style and the occasional use of “we” and “us” that really brought the reader into the story of Darling’s life.
What I didn’t like about it: One of my personal peeves is when an author chooses not to use quotation marks for dialogue. I think that style worked in Bulawayo’s book, but I definitely would’ve preferred the punctuation.
Memorable quote: “When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky. They flee their own wretched land so their hunger may be pacified in foreign lands, their tears wiped away in strange lands, the wounds of their despair bandaged in faraway lands, their blistered prayers muttered in the darkness of queer lands.”
Overall rating: 4.5/5 stars.
Challenge satisfied: #8, read a book by an author from Africa.
Additional notes: Bulawayo’s writing is spot-on. It’s prose, but it has a rhythmic, poetic feel that is truly artistic rather than didactic.
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