Chapter 10 to 12 Summary of We Need New Names

In Chapter 10 of We Need New Names, the narration again switches from Darling's distinctive voice to a more poetic, omniscient point of view.

We Need New Names Hardcover
We Need New Names Hardcover

Chapter 10 Summary: “How They Left”

In Chapter 10 of We Need New Names, the narration again switches from Darling’s distinctive voice to a more poetic, omniscient point of view. The two-page chapter describes “the children of the land… leaving in droves.” That is to say, many people realize that change is not coming to Zimbabwe and that they must flee elsewhere to rebuild their lives.

Chapter 11 Summary: “Destroyedmichygen”

Suddenly, Darling is living in “Destroyedmichygen” with Aunt Fostalina, Uncle Kojo, and TK, her cousin. She reflects on Aunt Fostalina coming to Paradise to get her and taking one last picture of her with her friends. Darling observes the strangeness of America; for example, she does not understand snow and thinks it is silly for Aunt Fostalina to walk in place to keep up with something she is watching on TV.

She tells a darkly humorous story in which her mother took her to Vodloza the healer a few days before she left. Vodloza tied a bone on a rainbow-colored string to her waist as a weapon to “fight off all evil in that America”; Darling told the people at the airport that she had a weapon after setting off the metal detector and Aunt Fostalina threw it in the trash.


Uncle Kojo is also critical of Aunt Fostalina working out, but he specifically critiques her thinness, saying it is not African to look like this and that she shouldn’t be following the ideals of the non-African women on the television. Uncle Kojo also spends a lot of time watching television; he watches sports when he comes home from work. Through a scene of Uncle Kojo watching sports, Darling reveals that Uncle Kojo is from Ghana and that TK was born in America to Uncle Kojo and another woman. TK does not like to interact with Darling and instead plays video games in his room by himself.

Darling spends a lot of time talking about the snow and the cold, which prevent her from playing outside. She misses her friends, but she likes that she has enough food to eat. Aunt Fostalina’s cousin Prince also comes from Zimbabwe and stays at the house for two weeks before moving in with his brother in Texas; he has burn scars and looks very old and tired. Uncle Kojo tells Aunt Fostalina that she needs to cook more hot meals for him, which angers both Aunt Fostalina and TK.

Chapter 12 Summary: “Wedding”

In Chapter 12 of We Need New Names, Darling and Aunt Fostalina’s family drive to a wedding in Indiana. They get lost on the way and Uncle Kojo gets fed up with the electronic navigator and stops using it. Aunt Fostalina does not realize what is happening because she is asleep in the passenger seat, so they keep driving down long roads edged with corn.

Darling narrates about joining Washington Academy, where people teased her a lot at first, but they switched targets when a new boy showed up. They call him a “freak,” a word Darling must look up on the internet, and find he has hung himself at the school a week later.

Uncle Kojo tells Darling to keep an eye out for the wedding hall and she sasses him and suddenly a deer runs out in front of the car, causing them to crash into it and waking up Aunt Fostalina. Aunt Fostalina immediately panics because of the crash, and then she becomes angry that they are somehow an hour and a half late for the wedding already. Aunt Fostalina makes calls for directions and they get back on the road. TK plays a prank on his father in which he says that the police are following them but not to look back, which makes Darling laugh but angers Uncle Kojo even more.

We Need New Names
Front cover of We Need New Names

They finally get to the wedding of Dumi, a man Aunt Fostalina used to date. She has prepared a lot for the wedding, even taking Darling to help her find a new dress and losing weight specifically to fit it. Dumi is marrying an obese white woman. Dumi’s parents and family couldn’t come to the wedding because they couldn’t get visas, so messages from them are read and translated, though the translator leaves out quite a bit. While she is in the bathroom, Darling overhears a conversation in her language about the overweight bride; one woman suggests that Dumi is marrying her for “papers”. When the women leave, Darling comes out to wash her hands and is engaged in conversation by a white woman who wants to hear her speak her language and talks about how beautiful and terrible things are in Africa. Darling is hungry but she still doesn’t eat much in public because she doesn’t use cutlery well, even after living in America for some time. She watches Uncle Kojo eat and talk comfortably with someone else from Ghana. At one point in the reception, Dumi comes over, holding a little boy. He talks to Aunt Fostalina, calling her Fee, and then they sit happily in silence together, which makes Darling uncomfortable. Dumi finally introduces the boy as Stephanie’s son Mandla. The boy squirms to be let down and then throws the ball he holds at Aunt Fostalina’s plate, which Aunt Fostalina does not like but doesn’t say anything about. Dumi scolds the boy lightly, but Darling can see that “Mandla is used to getting what he wants,” and the boy yells with a strange strength. Mandla throws the ball again, hitting a woman, who just smiles, but Darling gives Mandla “a serious eye.” Dumi asks Mandla for the ball and Mandla yells that Dumi is not his dad, which causes some people to turn their heads. Then, Mandla throws the ball and hits Darling in the eye and she immediately forgets everything about her surroundings, slapping him three times and hitting him on the head with her knuckles twice. Everyone is immediately outraged, but Tshaka Zulu tries to calm them down by saying “that is just how we handle unruly children in our culture.” While Darling feels ashamed, Aunt Fostalina is not angry at her, which Darling attributes to her pleasure at the bride not being beautiful.

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