About The Book

‘To play the country-game, we have to choose a country. Everybody wants to be the USA and Britain and Canada and Australia and Switzerland and them. Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti and not even this one we live in – who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart?’ Darling and her friends live in a shanty called Paradise, which of course is no such thing. It isn’t all bad, though. There’s mischief and adventure, games of Find bin Laden, stealing guavas, singing Lady Gaga at the tops of their voices. They dream of the paradises of America, Dubai, Europe, where Madonna and Barack Obama and David Beckham live. For Darling, that dream will come true. But, like the thousands of people all over the world trying to forge new lives far from home, Darling finds this new paradise brings its own set of challenges – for her and also for those she’s left behind.

About The Author

NOVIOLET BULAWAYO was born in Tsholotsho a year after Zimbabwe’s independence from British colonial rule. When she was eighteen, she moved to Kalamazoo, Michi­ gan. In 2011 she won the Caine Prize for African Writing; in 2009 she was shortlisted for the South Africa PEN Studzinsi Award, judged by JM Coetzee. Her work has appeared in magazines and in anthologies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and the UK. She earned her MFA at Cornell University, where she was also awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship, and she is currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University in California.

Reviews
‘NoViolet Bulawayo has created a world that lives and breathes – and fights, kicks, screams and scratches, too. She has clothed it in words and given it a voice at once dissonant and melodic, utterly distinct’ Aminatta Forna ‘I knew this writer was going to blow up. Her honesty, her voice, her formidable command of her craft – all were apparent from the first page’ Junot Diaz ‘Enthralling... a provocative, haunting debut from an author to watch’ Elle (US) ‘Darling is 10 when we first meet her, and the voice Ms. Bulawayo has fashioned for her is utterly distinctive — by turns unsparing and lyrical, unsentimental and poetic, spiky and meditative... a stunning novel... from a remarkably talented author’ Michiko Kakutani, New York Times ‘I was bowled over...by NoViolet Bulawayo’s shatteringly good first novel, We Need New Names’ Anne Tyler ‘NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names is an exquisite and powerful first novel, filled with an equal measure of beauty and horror and laughter and pain. The lives (and names) of these characters will linger in your mind, and heart, long after you’re done reading the book. NoViolet Bulawayo is definitely a writer to watch’ Edwidge Danticat

Topics For Discussion
The title We Need New Names highlights the link between names and identity. Discuss how NoViolet Bulawayo uses the characters’ names to explore themes of identity and reveal ironies: ‘What exactly is an African? Godknows asks’ (p.119). Bulawayo obviously intends the name ‘Paradise’ to have ironic overtones, but are there any ways in which it is a positive place for the children? Discuss Bulawayo’s use of language to convey the characters of the children and young people in the novel. Did you find their ‘voices’ convincing? What struck you as particularly vivid or realistic? ‘Forgiveness is not a friend-friend because her family just recently arrived in Paradise’ (p.78). Discuss how Bulawayo portrays the relationships and hierarchies between children and young people. Is We Need New Names as much about the complexities of growing up as it is about themes of nationality, displacement and identity? Discuss the ways in which Bulawayo explores reactions to trauma and psychological breakdown through the characters of Chipo, Prince and Uncle Kojo. ‘In the days right after the voting... Paradise didn’t sleep. The adults stayed up for many nights, dizzy and restless with expectation, not knowing how to sit still’ (p.134) ‘I am an African, he says. This is my fucking country, my father was born here, I was born here, just like you! His voice is so full of pain it’s as if there is something that is searing him deep in his blood.’ (p. 119) How does NoViolet Bulawayo present differing perspectives on Zimbabwe’s political unrest? Discuss Darling’s sense of displacement in America. Why does she have such conflicting feelings about her own national identity? Do you agree with Sbho’s comment ‘if it’s your country, you have to love it to live in it and not leave it’(p.286)? How does Bulawayo use the character of Tshaka Zulu to examine the importance of family and cultural identity?

Suggestions for Further Reading
Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The Last Resort: A Zimbabwe Memoir by Douglas Rogers House of Stone by Christina Lamb Zimbabwe: Years of Hope and Despair by Philip Barclay

For more on NoViolet visit www.vintage-books.co.uk

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