Tuesday, November 12, 2013

"We Need New Names" by NoViolet Bulawayo

In many ways, We Need New Names is a collection of short stories, though all follow the experiences of the young girl Darling, first in Zimbabwe (though I believe the country goes unnamed in the book), and later after she immigrates to America. But rather than a continuous narrative, the novel is comprised of a series of vignettes illuminating Darling and her friends' lives.

I found the stories about Darling's life in her home country the most engaging, as Bulawayo perfectly captures the voice of the young while illuminating a culture and country different than my own. There's the simple joy of stealing and eating guavas, or the fear (even though Darling and her friends are black) when a white neighborhood is ransacked.The simultaneous concern and indifference with which Darling and her friends treat the pregnancy of their friend Chipo--a child as well--too feels emblematic of youth.

The stories when Darling moves to Michigan are similarly engaging, though thematically they tread ground I was more familiar with from similar novels which describe the challenges of the American immigrant experience. Darling is proud to be living in America, but she also desperately misses her country and her friends, and she struggles to adjust to the inevitable distance that such a move creates between her and the people back home.

Bulawayo writes beautifully, and I had a hard time putting the novel down, even though, because of the structure, it would seem easy to stop. I'm eager to read more.

No comments:

Post a Comment