NoVoilet Bulawayo’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel starts off with a lot of promise compared to some of this year’s other contenders. It is immediately readable with a storyline that promises poignancy and individuality, but like so many other 2013 MBP nominees, We Need New Names ultimately disappoints.
Our narrator, Darling, is ten years old and living in her home country of Zimbabwe when the story opens. While she and her friends spend their days stealing guavas and wandering the streets, they all long for something more. Even amidst poverty, hunger, and disease, Darling and her friends are deeply aware of what they’re missing out on. When they think of America and Western life, they think of Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Lamborghinis. But as Darling soon finds out, American life isn’t all glitz and glamour.