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"We Need New Names: A Novel" by NoViolet Bulawayo

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

PUBLISHED DATE: May 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0316230810

PAGES: 304

People have been telling me for years to read this book, and now I finally have.

We Need New Names is a brutal story of a young girl and her friends navigating the harshness of a land they call Paradise. Stealing guavas and dreaming of coming to America, Darling and her friends though innocent have been through a lot. The group of ten year olds spend their days trying to help one of their group members, Chipo, already pregnant and unsure how her baby will come out. Navigating a world of coat hangers, a body swinging from a tree, and starvation, they dream of a world full of delicious things to eat and shiny pretty things to play with.

Darling has an aunt already living in Detroit, which Darling ironically mispronounces as Disaster. Her young fascination and obsession with going to America and being with her aunt seem to be the only thing sustaining her. Eventually she does get to America and it falls short of all of her years of expectations. Her cousin, who has embraced every negative stereotype of being an African American, is hostile amplifying her loneliness and confusion. Darling comforts herself with the realization that at the very least she has no shortage of food to eat.

This story is reminiscent of other coming-to-America-from-Africa stories that I've read, with Americanah coming to mind. I read Americanah years before I started this blog, and loved it wholeheartedly. Behold the Dreamers is also another story about coming to America where the protagonists experience the disappointment of the American dream.

Ultimately, this is a worthwhile read. I'd definitely recommend it to people who loved Americanah or Behold the Dreamers.

Recommendation: If you're up for a brutal coming-to-America story, you may enjoy this one.

Audience: Millennials and beyond, though there may be a few teens who may be interested in this story. The protagonist starts at 10, and the story follows her into her teens.

*I borrowed this audiobook from my library Hoopla account.

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