Monday, January 30, 2017

We Need New Names

When Darling's way of life in Zimbabwe is wrecked by paramilitary policeman, she is 10 years old. Her childhood and those of her friends are now tragic and filled with games centered on their poverty and devastation. Her and her friends often talk about their plans for escaping and how much better their lives would be. Eventually, Darling's escape because real. She moves to America to live with her aunt. This move however presents her with a whole new set of problems and issues to face as she finds her place as immigrant. 
I almost didn't finish this book. First, there are no quotation marks. I know, I've complained about this before and I've also gotten over it. So, I got over myself and continued to read. And so when I was able to put my own petty bias away, I found myself faced with a new hurdle. This book is painful to read. Bulawayo uses first person narrative so we get Darling's perspective of the different tragedies in her childhood. Because Darling is 10, the stories feel like 'show, don't tell', leaving the reader to gather context clues. This tended to add tension to the reading experience. I found that while some scenes were difficult to read, it was also hard not to finish.
The latter half of the book goes into her experience in America. I have no idea what I was expecting but much like Darling, I was disappointed. Her new American accent and new friends aren't enough to make her feel as though she fits into America. Each chapter reads like a short story. We get glimpses into different times of Darling's life. The second half of the book goes faster chronological but still feels like it's dragging. Darling gets further and further away from the child she was at the start of the book but that doesn't mean conforms. 
This was an interesting book. I enjoyed the narration and the descriptions. The pacing was slow at times, especially at the end. I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. It isn't a quick read but it isn't terribly long. There aren't many bright spots in this book so be forewarned. You probably won't laugh. I don't know if that's important to you. Mostly, when it isn't painful, it's sad. It's becoming less important to me. 

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