Karen Valby
May 17, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

We Need New Names

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
NoViolet Bulawayo
publisher
Reagan Arthur Books
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A

Young Darling’s world in Zimbabwe is a ravaged one, but her life there is rich despite the deprivation in We Need New Names. Then the preteen moves to America, to ”Destroyed, Michigan,” to live with her aunt Fostalina, a nursing care worker wedded to her treadmill. Darling has difficulty adapting — to the snow, to technology, to shelves teeming with boxed food, and to curious, careless white faces everywhere marveling at her African roots. (”Tell me about it. Jesus, the rapes and all those killings!” a wide-eyed woman demands in the bathroom at a wedding.) Bulawayo, whose prose is warm and clear and unfussy, maintains Darling’s singular voice throughout, even as her heroine struggles to find her footing. Her hard, funny first novel is a triumph. A

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