TITLE: WE NEED NEW NAMES

AUTHOR: NOVIOLET BULAWAYO

GENRE: FICTION

PAGES: 298

RATING 4.5

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“When Godknows starts singing Jobho, Sbho joins in and we listen to them sing it for a while and then we’re all scratching our bodies and singing it because Jobho is a song that leaves you with no choice but to scratch your body the way that sick man Job did in the Bible, lying there scratching his itching wounds when God was busy torturing him just to play with him to see if he had faith. Jobho makes you call out to heaven even though you know God is occupied with better things and will not even look your way. Jobho makes you point your forefinger to the sky and sing at the top of your voice. We itch and we scratch and we point and we itch again and we fill the shack with song.

Bulawayo got me fumbling around on how to go about the review. Her message is potent and fiercely honest to gainsay my long lived prejudices and treasured misconceptions, the raw work, and the unique language held me spellbound. The picturesque fictional memoir had me relate to so much, and it is a typical story of any individual who was brought up in a developing country. It evokes the traditional songs, the games such as ‘Find  Bin Laden’ and the communal beating on our chapped buttocks. ‘I’m not talking to you, chapped buttocks and I don’t need any kaka school to make money, you goat-teeth.’

Darling is a ten-year-old from a shanty town bitterly named as Paradise. Her childhood revolves around her gang of friends with amusing names ; Stina, Chipo, Bastard and Godknows, seemingly innocent beings in a harsh environment of Zimbabwe.Around 2007/2008 the country falls apart, citizens are murdered and the white Zimbabweans are not spared either. Darlings lavish lifestyle comes to a halt when their prestigious home is bulldozed, and they leave for the village. The Chinese are haste to ceremoniously reap the benefits of a nation in despair and dire poverty.The leadership has been accused of rigging polls and orchestrating violence.

Darling and her crew are regularly hitting Budapest which is a nearby town of the well off. Like any child, they are eager to know the other side of life but primarily to fill their ever grumbling stomachs.  We didn’t eat this morning, and my stomach feels like somebody took a shovel and dug everything out. A simile you can feel. They enjoy climbing walls, peeking into gardens and their dream houses and heave themselves into trees to steal guavas. The fruit tranquilizes their hunger temporarily, but they get to pay for it later. Their childhood is full of mischief that is breathtaking, at some point, they want to help Chipo get rid of her big stomach with a wire. In another instance, they find out  Darlings absentee father has shown up,they forcefully get in their shack and intuit he is dying of AIDS yet poor darling had not yet grasped that. ‘He feels like dry wood in my hands, but there is a strange light in his sunken eyes like he has swallowed the sun.’ Their worship, play, illiteracy, home leaves one feeling explosive and dreading their next move.

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Darling’s dream of going abroad comes true, and she is uprooted from her witty friends and wretched country. Like so many immigrants, she is disillusioned with her exodus in search of a better life and education. Life is not as easy as she thought it would be in the United States. The jobs aren’t much for the immigrants who found their way illegally. ‘You think watching on BBC means you know what is going on? No, you don’t my friend, it’s the wound that knows the texture of the pain; it’s us who stayed here feeling the real suffering, it’s us who stayed here who have the right to say anything.’ Darling has to do odd jobs of sorting out waste plastics and bear the pain of not visiting her home country because she is an illegal immigrant. She is bereft in her dream country where minds are more isolated, unlike her motherland.

The book vividly displays the impact of colonialism and imperialism in the eyes of a minor and the disillusion of an immigrant. Honestly, I am the audience targeted by  Bulawayo, and my enthusiasm is skewed. Her work stuns as it captivates and she flays the skin with issues such as AIDS, teenage pregnancy, rape, and politics. I doubt my capability to do justice describing it, so I won’t.  I definitely recommend this vibrant read from high school onwards. It is the closest you might come to someone’s else life.

 

 

 

 

 

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