Feb 232014
 

we-need-new-names-3e60731d6539be68A young girl growing up in the disintegrating country of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe escapes by moving in with her aunt in Detroit, Michigan.  Her account is covered in this two-part, highly autobiographical novel of life in two cultures.  Part one is the joy and hunger of growing up with your friends on the streets in Zimbabwe.  Darling, the main character, and her friends play outside all day long.  They steal guavas from rich people to squelch their gnawing stomachs.  Their clothes are torn, dirty donations.  Their elders are away in South Africa searching for income or contracting HIV.  Even as children, they are not nearly so ignorant of the world as we Westerners perceive: they know how to play the aid organizations, how deceptively palliative the churches are, and with surprising accuracy what opportunities exist in the U.S.  Part two in some ways is more predictable.  Life in America is hard for immigrants torn from the tastes, aromas, dust, and relatives back home.  Darling finds American culture confined to computers, texting, shopping malls, school exams, cars, and cable.  Coming of age is hard; doing so in a foreign country is harder; forsaking your homeland, even in search of opportunity, is always wrenching.  The contribution of this book is its contemporary view of the experience.

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