Magazine article World Literature Today

We Need New Names

Magazine article World Literature Today

We Need New Names

Article excerpt

NoViolet Bulawayo. We Need New Names. New York. Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown. 2013. isbn 9780316230810

Written with kinetic energy that crackles with life, NoViolet Bula- wayo's debut novel should be read by anyone interested in emerging voices in world literature. At times joyful, funny, melancholic, ferocious, and defiant, Bulawayo's first-person narrator, Darling, is a trenchant observer of the human condition. After meeting a wealthy visitor from England near her home in Zimbabwe, a young Darling takes note of the visitor's "smooth skin that doesn't even have a scar to show she is a liv- ing person."

Darling is adept at reading people for signs of privilege or pri- vation, camaraderie or confronta- tion. Whether as a young girl who finds comfort in the company of her friends as they steal guavas and try to avoid the harsh world of adults or as a teenager who, after years living in the United States, has become jaded and cynical, Darling speaks to us with a voice that is direct, power- ful, and believable. On the return of her father, ravaged by HIV/AIDS after living in South Africa, Darling says: "Father comes home after many years of forgetting us, of not sending us money, of not loving us, not visit- ing us, not anything us, and parks in the shack, unable to move, unable to talk properly, unable to anything, vomiting and vomiting." Bulawayo humanizes personal hardship by avoiding platitudes and letting Dar- ling speak her own truths.

In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends at times witness vio- lent events. Bulawayo relates such moments and their aftermath in terse and revealing language. …

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