Happy Words Wednesday! Today we’re highlighting a poignant passage by NoViolet Bulawayo.
This NoViolet Bulawayo quote comes from her 2013 debut novel, We Need New Names.
We Need New Names is in many ways a typical coming-of-age story, following young Darling as she leaves her home country of Zimbabwe for the Midwestern United States. It’s also in many ways a typical immigrant’s tale, if such a genre can even be named given the diverse experiences that immigrants to the United States have.
Although the story follows hardship after hardship, both in Darling’s home country and her adopted home of Detroit, the story is never lifeless or overly bleak. Darling and her friends are memorable characters, and the prose is full of energy and humor. Overall, We Need New Names is a study of identity—its loss, rebirth, and adaptation.
The first chapter, “Hitting Budapest,” won the Caine Prize for African writing, and the fully finished novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
This NoViolet Bulawayo quote comes from a very brief chapter in We Need New Names. Though brief, the chapter is beautiful for its lyrical prose and heartbreaking description of what it means to leave your country. Here’s just the part of the chapter we’ve highlighted in the graphic:
“Look at them leaving in droves despite knowing they will be welcomed with restraint in those strange lands because they do not belong, knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they must not sit comfortable lest they be asked to rise and leave, knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land, knowing they will have to walk on their toes because they must not leave footprints on the new earth lest they be mistaken for those who want to claim the land as theirs. Look at them leaving in droves, arm in arm with loss and lost, look at them leaving in droves.”
-NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
Watch the author read her work here: