We Need New Names

We Need New Names

A Novel

Downloadable Audiobook - 2013
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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.
Published: [United States] : Dreamscape Media, LLC : Made available through hoopla, 2013.
Edition: Unabridged.
ISBN: 9781624066399
Characteristics: 1 online resource (1 audio file (8hr., 59 min.)) :,digital.


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Mar 03, 2018

The American Dream is something most members of the third world closely associated with the western world. For most of them, it's just that—a dream. Even the children are blinded by fantasies of Hollywood and wealth as they play on dirt roads. NoViolet Bulawayo tells the story of one such child who actually made it to America in her novel We Need New Names. Darling is a 10-year-old girl living in the town of Paradise in Zimbabwe. Half the novel follows her day-to-day life in the war-torn, hunger-stricken country. She and her friends live around so many horrifying and disgusting circumstances that they seem to be oddly desensitized to events that would traumatize any other child. Continually, Darling says she wants to leave the hellhole that is Paradise (ironically named) for America. She gets her wish and moves to Detroit, Michigan with her aunt, thus entering the second half of the novel, and is a bit older at this point in the novel. As she tries to assimilate, Darling realizes that America isn't as amazing as advertised. Bouts of nostalgia for her home country constantly afflict her. Her life deteriorates until she's living in a small town in Michigan, working two jobs and noticing unfortunate things happening around her that mirror the situations she saw in Zimbabwe. The novel closes with her old friend accusing her of abandoning her country and a short but haunting allegory.
This work was a good read. Bulawayo incorporated beautiful literary works that broke from the storyline, expressing her own thoughts. The characters and setting certainly provide a much-needed change from those in conventional writings. It also provides great insight into the lives of Zimbabweans and their culture as well as the way regimes impact even the lives of a few kids in a shanty town. This was masterfully done through Bulawayo’s decision to make the setting of half the book Zimbabwe and the other half America.
The book has a few X-rated scenes in it, but if you are uncomfortable with reading them (as I am) you won't be missing anything important by skipping over them. It also contains a substantial amount of cursing. There are no quotations around discourse between the characters and each chapter is separate from the others, which make reading the book a bit disorienting. My biggest criticism is the fact that Child Darling is much too mentally capable for her age, but that characteristic doesn't remain consistent throughout the story. She'll have a moment of philosophical genius then proceed to think like a regular child.
Overall, I believe that the novel was an interesting and thought-provoking read. I wouldn't recommend this for anyone who is uncomfortable with the occasional swear word or doesn't think they could read it even if they skipped some of the more suggestive scenes. I'd also advise one to be wary of bloody themes and immensely sorrowful occurrences. For everyone else, I'd absolutely recommend this book. It's choices of settings and characters open up a world most Americans have never thought to venture into. Many novels we read are staged in America or European countries, so a story staged in Zimbabwe brings a whole new plethora of messages to the table. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names is not just a story, but an opportunity to learn.

Feb 18, 2017

It feels like cultural appropriation to offer any opinions n on this book, so little do I know of the struggles described here. This is one more point of entry for those looking for understanding and insight into the experiences of immigrants forced to either assimilate, or be singled out as 'illegals'. The first half set in Zimbabwe is a fresh look at a childhood where life seems simple and the answers are clear in the young character's mind. Life is. Ore complicated as an teenager living in Michigan, but so the teens all around. This book offers an examinations of culture and of growing up.


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