‘We Need New Names’ is the fictional debut novel from NoViolet Bulawayo, expanding on her Caine Prize winning short story ‘Hitting Budapest’. It begins following the plight of ten year old Darling, who lives in a shanty-town called ‘Paradise’ in Zimbabwe amidst an environment of violent political unrest. With no school to go to and left to their own devices, Darling and her friends spend their days playing games and stealing guavas to satiate their ever present hunger.
The dream of escaping their impoverished living conditions for foreign lands comes true for Darling who is sent to live with her aunt in the United States in Detroit, Michigan. The country of abundance, however, turns out to be vastly different to what she imagined it would be. Experiencing displacement in the new land and struggling to fit in in unfamiliar territory, Darling finds herself longing for familiarities from home.
Bulwayo’s unique style of writing is refreshing, exhibiting a rawness and vibrancy through rhythmic language in the descriptions of grave situations and events told from a child’s perspective. A highly original and excellent debut.