We need new names, begins with Darling and her friends Chipo, Stina, Bastard, Spo, and Godknows on their way to steal guavas because they are so hungry. The travel to Budapest from Paradise (Zimbabwe, found out at the end of the book) and hunt various houses for guavas. For children they dealt with so many things like seeing a dead body hanging from a tree, NGO’s bringing them things they didn’t really need, a pregnant Chipo at 11 years old, and so many things that would be tough for young people to deal with. But being young and care free, they were able to find their own means of happiness with each other and playing games like “find Binladin, country game and Vasco de Gama.” Darling is the narrator of the story and she shares her experience with Christianity, her dad’s contact with AIDs, and how they all used to live in a nice place with houses and enough to eat after their independence.
Fast forward to Darling in USA. In Michigan, Darling lives with her aunt and her Ghanaian boyfriend who also has a son. NoViolet Bulawayo, the author of We Need New Names takes a break in the story and tells us about the immigrant experience in the USA, and how illegal immigrants cannot return “home.” In Michigan, Darling makes new friends and she shares with readers what basically most pre-teen go through in the USA. Discovering boys, breaking rules and finding themselves. She also faces what some immigrant face, being torn between her home country and the new country she has found herself in.
I will start by saying that I don’t think I was the intended audience for this book. But in some ways, everyone could read this book. Bulawayo touched on so many subjects near and dear to my heart that I will probably be discussing in future blog posts. The problem is, she touched on a bit of everything but didn’t invest in it. It is as if she was dancing around the subjects like, colonization, Christianity, illegal immigrants, AIDS, etc… all such important topics but merely brushed off after a mention. But like I said above, I think the book wasn’t meant for me, maybe highschoolers? If that is the case then, my guess is she wasn’t trying to make it too heavy.
The structure of the book was also all over the place. It was as if the readers were brought into the middle of a story and no one bothered to tell us the beginning of it. I felt abandoned at the end of the book as well, and something really unsettling happened in the middle of the week. It was if Darling grew up but then she went back to being 14 years old.
But I will say, I saw myself through Darling. I came to the USA around the same time Darling did and I definitely experienced some of the things that she did. Just the mental anguish of betrayal of your country, working at such a young age, befriending people who are so different from you, adults working non-stop, etc… I could really relate.
I will give this book a 2/5 stars
from the book
Look at the children of the land leaving in droves, leaving their own land with bleeding wounds on their bodies and shock on their faces and blood in their hearts and hunger in their stomachs and grief in their footsteps. Leaving their mothers and fathers and children behind, leaving their umbilical cords underneath the soil, leaving the bones of their ancestors in the earth, leaving everything that makes them who and what they are, leaving because it is no longer possible to stay. They will never be the same again because you cannot be the same once you leave behind who and what you are, you just cannot be the same.