Losing your language, learning another

newnamesThere were so many great quotes I wanted to pull from NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names.

Darling is a little girl growing up in Zimbabwe. She steals guavas with her friends. They play games like “Find bin Laden” and speak like unconventional poets. In one conversation, they contemplate looking for Jesus instead of bin Laden because it seems like a bigger prize.

But Darling has an aunt in America whom she hopes to join. This aunt lives in what she refers to as “Destroyedmichygen.” There are so many small moments of genius in this novel, it was hard to pick the ones I wanted to share. I would probably end up publishing the whole book on this blog.

time_magDarling makes her way to America eventually and what she finds there isn’t the paradise she expects. There’s so much food but she’s hungry to go home. We Need New Names attempts to answer that age-old question for immigrant communities — where exactly is home? Bulawayo reminds us that it’s not so easy when home doesn’t exist as you remember it.

“We ate like pigs, like wolves, like dignitaries; we ate like vultures, like stray dogs, like monsters; we ate like kings. We ate for all our past hunger, for our parents and brothers and sisters and relatives and friends who were still back there. We uttered their names between mouthfuls, conjured up their hungry faces, chapped lips — eating for those who could not be with us to eat for themselves. And when we were full we carried our dense bodies with the dignity of elephants — if only our country could see us in America, see us eat like kings in a land that was not ours.”


Images: ideas.time.com 


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