NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names - Review Essay by Michael Etherton


NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names, is a first-person narrative of a young girl from Southern Zimbabwe. Darling grows up here until about the age of 10, when she goes to the USA, to live with her Aunt Fostalina, first in Detroit, Michigan [‘DestroyedMichygen’] and then in Kalamazoo. The first half of the book, in Zimbabwe, is in the region called Matabeleland, the capital city of which is Bulawayo, Elizabeth Tshele’s pen-name and the setting for the story. Neither Zimbabwe nor Bulawayo are mentioned by name in the book, nor is the President, Robert Mugabe, but there are very obvious references to him and to the country over the first decade of the twenty first century, the period of Darling’s growing up.

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Surviving the Great Robbery

Mukai No 67, August/Sept 2014

We Need New Names, by NoViolet Bulawayo, Weaver Press, 2013, pp 294.

Reviewed by Oskar Wermter SJ

I see in the main characters, young street children in Bulawayo, a reflection of their elders; their poverty is an indictment of those who robbed them.  The world that comes to light in this narrative has many dimensions, by no means all in harmony with one another, because it is complex and contradictory, and the writer did not simplify it into a political pamphlet or reduce it to an ideological thesis.  She  managed to let the real Zimbabwe with all its crazy contortions appear on the pages of this book.

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We Need New Names - by Associated Press

Zimbabwe author shortlisted for Booker literature prize, reflects on the woes of her homeland

By Associated Press, Published: September 23

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Review of We Need New Names - by Daniel Mandishona for the Harare News

Reviewed by Daniel Mandishona for the Harare News, September, 2013

We Need New Names is a truly remarkable debut novel by a talented young writer. No Violet Bulawayo has produced a well-crafted narrative with faint echoes of other coming-of-age novels - Philip Roth’s ‘Goodbye, Columbus’, Jeffrey Eugenides’ ‘The Virgin Suicides’ and J. D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye - to name but a few. Like Roth’s ‘Goodbye, Columbus’, Bulawayo’s novel explores similar themes of ethnicity and assimilation in a strange country. Themes like alienation, displacement and infidelity are handled with a dispassionate candour by a master story teller.

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Review of We Need New Names - by Memory Chirere

Reviewed by Memory Chirere

NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut novel, We Need New Names confirms the existence of a certain special tradition in the literature of Zimbabwe which cries for adequate recognition and evaluation.

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We Need New Names - The Standard by Tendai Huchu

Published by Weaver Press.
Reviewed in The Standard by Tendai Huchu
28th July, 2013


Darling and her friends spend their days stealing guavas from the plush neighbourhood of Budapest. They are not in school because their teachers emigrated and the forlorn adults in their shanty town, Paradise, take little interest in their antics. This is the world of NoViolet Bulawayo’s stunning debut, We Need New Names. Bulawayo, like her contemporaries, Brian Chikwava and Binyavanga Wainaina, delights in playing with the English language, bending it, distorting it, hammering it into the shape of a uniquely Zimbabwean novel, with Shona and Ndebele in the text.

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Review of We Need New Names - The Standard

The Standard May 5, 2013 in Life & Style

We need New Names:  a story well-crafted
Title: We Need New Names
Writer: NoViolet Bulawayo
Reviewer: Tinashe Mushakavanhu

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Review of We Need New Names - New York Times by MICHIKO KAKUTANI

New York Times
May 15 2013

A Child of Two Lands
‘We Need New Names, ’ by No Violet Bulawayo
Published: May 15, 2013

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Review of We Need New Names - The Guardian by Helon Habila

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – review

Source: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo – review | The Guardian

NoViolet Bulawayo has extended her Caine prize-winning short story about a Zimbabwean girl coming of age in the US into a novel. But has the prize created an African aesthetic of suffering?

Bulawayo on snowflakes … 'So big they shroud everything but you don't even hear them coming'.
Helon Habila 
The Guardian, Thursday 20 June 2013

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