Excerpt from We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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We Need New Names

A Novel

by NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New Names
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  • First Published:
    May 2013, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2014, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron

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Print Excerpt


Then if a man put it in there, why doesn't he take it out?

Because it's women who give birth, you dunderhead. That's why they have breasts to suckle the baby and everything.

But Chipo's breasts are small. Like stones.

It doesn't matter. They'll grow when the baby comes. Let's go, can we go Chipo? I say. Chipo doesn't reply, she just takes off, and we run after her. When we get right to the middle of Budapest we stop. This place is not like Paradise, it's like being in a different country all together. A nice country where people who are not like us live. But then you don't see anything to show there are real people living here, even the air itself is empty; no delicious food cooking, no odors, no sounds. Just nothing.

***

Budapest is big, big houses with the satellite dishes on the roofs and neat graveled yards or trimmed lawns, and the tall fences and the durawalls and the flowers and the big trees, heavy with fruit that's waiting for us since nobody around here seems to know what to do with it. It's the fruit that gives us courage, otherwise we wouldn't dare be here. I keep expecting the clean streets to spit and tell us to go back where we came from.

At first we used to steal from Stina's uncle's house, who now lives in Britain, but that was not stealing-stealing because it was Stina's uncle's tree and not a stranger's. There's a difference. But then we finished all the guavas in that tree so we have moved to the other houses as well. We have stolen from so many houses I cannot even count. It was Bastard who decided that we pick a street and stay on it until we have gone through all the houses. Then we go to the next street. This is so we don't confuse where we have been with where we are going. It's like a pattern, and Bastard says this way we can be better thieves.

Today we are starting a new street and so we are carefully scouting around. We are passing Chimurenga Street where we've already harvested every guava tree, maybe like two--three weeks ago when we see white curtains part and a face peer from a window of the cream home with the marble statue of the urinating naked boy with wings. We stand and stare, looking to see what the face will do, when the window opens and a small, funny voice shouts for us to stop. We remain standing, not because the voice told us to stop, but because none of us has started to run, and also because the voice doesn't sound dangerous. Music pours out of the window onto the street; it's not kwaito, it's not dance hall, it's not house, it's not anything we know.

***

A tall, thin woman opens the door and comes out of the house. The first thing we see is that she is eating something. She waves as she walks toward us, and already we can tell from the woman's thinness that we are not even going to run. We wait, so we can see what she is smiling for, or at. The woman stops by the gate; it's locked, and she didn't bring the keys to open it.

Jeez, I can't stand this awful heat, and the hard earth, how do you guys ever do it? the woman asks in her not-dangerous voice. She smiles, takes a bite of the thing in her hand. A pink camera dangles from her neck. We all look at the woman's feet peeking underneath her long skirt. They are clean and pretty feet, like a baby's. She is wiggling her toes, purple from nail polish. I don't remember my own feet ever looking like that, maybe when I was born.

Then there's the woman's red chewing mouth. I can tell from the vein at the side of her neck, and the way she smacks her big lips that whatever she is eating tastes really good. I look closely at her long hand, at the thing she is eating. It's flat, and the outer part is crusty. The top is creamish and looks fluffy and soft, and there are coin-like things on it, a deep pink, the color of burn wounds. I also see sprinkles of red and green and yellow, and finally the brown bumps that look like pimples.

Excerpted from We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Copyright © 2013 by NoViolet Bulawayo. Excerpted by permission of Reagan Arthur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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