Happy New Year – and a great novel to recommend by the first black African woman to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Whether or not you received book tokens for Christmas, here’s the one you should buy – “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo. I read it over the holiday break – quite wonderful.

Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo became the first black African woman to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. “We Need New Names” tells the story of 10 year old Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses in Zimbabwe, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for?

NoViolet Bulawayo is Elizabeth Zandile Tshele, born in Tsholotsho, Zimbabwe, in 1981, now living in the USA. Asked why she used the name NoViolet, she told the crowd that Violet was her mother’s name and her pseudonym was crafted as a tribute to her. As to the meaning of the title of her book, she says that Zimbabwe as a country needs a new way of thinking, imagining and seeing its realities.


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