This week I read We need new names by NoViolet Bulawayo. NoViolet is an amazing author. Her words leave you wanting more and the geenrous use of Zimbabwean colloqiual expressions has you laughing in delight and sighing with nostalgia at the same time. I was taken back to my youth with her reference to the games we played Andy Over etc. Wow.
The book is about a young girl who lives in urban Zimbabwe and describes her experiences as well as offering a sort of social commentary of the times. She lives through Murambatsvina, through the dollarisation of the economy as well as occupation of white people’s land. She lives with her grandmother and mother; her father having gone to South Africa to look for work. He subsequently returns after many years of neglecting his family, now on his death bed, dying of AIDS. Her mother’s sister secures a visa for her and she moves to America where she goes to school and struggles to fit in what with her accent and way of doing things. She eventually makes friends with a Ghananian girl and a Black American and together they explore early teenagehood amongst the temptations they are exposed to.
This book was very good and offered an insight to people not familiar with the Zimbabwean situation. The only thing I found wrong is that she crammed all the Zimbabwean woes and American stereotypes into one book. For example, she writes about the introduction of the US Dollar, Murambastvina, farm occupations all in one go. At times the geographical setting seems off centre as she tries to fit in every thing without changing the location of the girl’s dwelling. She also delves into American stories such as the lack of discipline in American children, their exposure to societal evils such as drugs and pornography. It is amazing that the narrator, Darling manages to maintain any purity at all by the end of the book.
The book also reflects the pressure and sadness people living in the diaspora feel at being away from home. Always being asked for money, not having papers and not being able to attend funerals and weddings. It also looks at second generation diasporians who are so far removed from their parents culture and norms.
All in all, it was a fairly good book. I enjoyed it.