We Need New Names Analysis

We Need New Names is a novel by NoViolet Bulawayo that tells the coming-of-age story of Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl.

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We Need New Names Hardcover
We Need New Names Hardcover
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Plot Summary of We Need New Names

We Need New Names is a novel by NoViolet Bulawayo that tells the coming-of-age story of Darling, a young Zimbabwean girl. Darling is a young girl living in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. After her family’s home was bulldozed in the midst of a political upheaval, she, her family, and many more are forced to set up a village called Paradise.

Darling spends her days with her friends, playing games and going into Budapest to steal guavas. Sometimes, an NGO comes to drop off clothing, toys, and food. On Sundays, Mother of Bones – the woman who takes care of Darling while her father works in South Africa and her mother sells goods – takes Darling to a church congregation that meets on top of a mountain called Fambeki, led by Prophet Revelations Bitchington Mborro.

Darling and her friends process the harsh realities of society around them through their games and conversations, such as wondering about the gender of their friend Chipo’s baby, pretending to be the people who killed a young man named Bornfree for his political involvements, and arguing over which world powers they get to be when playing country-game. Darling’s father returns, sick with AIDS, and she must care for him for a time, which she hates because it takes her away from her friends.

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Then, quite suddenly in the winter of 2008, Darling moves to America to live with her Aunt Fostalina and her family in Michigan, as she told her friends she would someday have to do throughout the first half of the book. Darling adapts to American culture quickly but misses her home and her friends. She sometimes behaves inappropriately, such as disciplining and hitting someone else’s child while at a wedding.

Darling lives a normal high school student’s life: dabbling in porn, going for joyrides with her friends, and taking on two part-time jobs to save money for community college. However, her connection to Zimbabwe always nags at her as she grows further apart from her friends and family, exacerbated by her inability to return for a visit because she has already overstayed her visa.

In a climactic moment, Chipo accuses her of abandoning her country and tells her she cannot call Zimbabwe her country any more. The novel ends with her uncle telling her that they have found bin Laden, which causes Darling to remember a game she and her friends used to play.

Chapter by Chapter Summary of We Need New Names

We Need New Names
Front cover of We Need New Names

Themes

Characterisation

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