Friday, January 31, 2014

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawyo

Darling is a ten year old girl living in an unnamed African country, probably based on Zimbabwe. She spends her days with a group of friends, children like her who have had their homes, schools and families destroyed by poverty and political violence. Unsupervised, they spend their days playing rough games, vandalizing property and stealing fruit from the trees in a wealthy neighborhood. Despite these activities, the essential innocence of the children is apparent in Darling’s telling of the story. Darling likes to brag to her friends that she will one day be joining her Aunt Fostalina in America and enjoy the all the benefits of life in that country. As a teenager, Darling does join her aunt in “Destroyed,” Michigan but the benefits she envisioned elude her. She misses the companionship of close friends because Americans choose isolation in their homes and apartments in front of televisions and computers. They don’t face hunger, but Americans either gorge themselves into obesity or starve themselves in order to be thin. School is not challenging and available jobs are menial and low-paying. Higher education is financially out of reach. Eventually Darling does make some American friends, but in place of running wild through the countryside, they watch pornography on the internet, drive illegally and hang out at the local mall.   Darling misses the family and friends she left behind in Africa but is unable to return and probably would no longer fit in if she could. Between two cultures, she faces a future of loneliness and dreams denied.