We Need New Names


The novel begins by following a group of mostly pre-teen children - the central character Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Bastard and Godknows - living in tin shacks in Zimbabwe after their homes have been bulldozed by Mugabe's paramilitary police. The author gives "a child's-eye view of a world where there is talk of elections and democracy but where chaos and degradation become everyday reality, where death and sickness and the threat of violence lurk" in a shanty town misleadingly named Paradise, where people try to hold on to dignity while families fracture.[3] The children spend their days getting into mischief, stealing guavas from the rich neighbourhood known as "Budapest", inventing a life of adventure and make-believe, daydreaming of enjoying luxury overseas in places such as Dubai and America.

When eventually Darling travels abroad to live with her aunt who is working in Detroit, Michigan, she discovers the many other struggles and stresses to be faced as an African immigrant to the US, including listening to misconceptions about one's land of birth, having to adapt to a new culture, and the fact that there are so many illegal immigrants in the States over whom the threat of deportation looms.[12]

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