We Need New Names


April 9, 2016

A novel by NoViolet Bulawayo that starts with 10-year-old Darling in Zimbabwe and follows her journey as she moves to America to live with an aunt.  It’s a fast and interesting read and a few days after I finished I found myself arguing passionately (albeit cluelessly!) about why an immigrant might make the choices they make, based on what I read in this book.  Darling’s experience in America, especially in the second-to-last chapter, brought to mind Obinze from Americanah when he was living illegally in London.


weneednewnames2“Because we were not using our languages we said things we did not mean; what we really wanted to say remained folded inside. trapped. In America we did not always have the words. It was only when were were by ourselves that we spoke in our real voices. When we were alone we summoned the horses of our languages and mounted their backs and galloped past skyscrapers. Always, we were reluctant to come back.”

“And when they asked us where we were from, we exchanged glances and smiled with the shyness of child brides.  They said, Africa?  We nodded yes. What part of Africa? We smiled. Is it that part where vultures wait for famished children to die?  We smiled.  Where the life expectancy is thirty-five years?  We smiled.  Is is there where dissidents shove AK-47s between women’s legs?  We smiled.  Where people run about naked? We smiled. That part where they massacred each other?  We smiled. Is it where the old president rigged the election and people were tortured and killed and a whole bunch of them put in prison and all, there where they are dying of cholera – oh my God, yes, we’ve seen your country; it’s been on the news.”

Also recently finished…

nightingaleThe Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerrallthelight

Both of these books are set in WWII France.  And both were equally riveting but for opposite reasons.  The Nightingale was fast-paced and I was swept up in the story from page one.  There were two places in the book where I had to stop to weep and it’s been a long while since a book has evoked that sort of emotion in me.

All the Light We Cannot See was not face-paced but it was beautifully written and methodical.  Doerr took his time telling his story and it was a much longer read but his book had that oft-undefinable “this is good writing / story-telling” quality that I so enjoy in a book.  I am, however, ready to leave WWII (and France) for a while!

Up Next?