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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
  • Critics' Opinion:

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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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Excerpt
We Need New Names

We are on our way to Budapest; Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mzilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his little sister Fraction, even though mother will kill me dead if she found out; we are just going. There are guavas to steal in Budapest, and right now I'd rather die for guavas. We didn't eat this morning and my stomach feels like somebody just took a shovel and dug everything out.

Getting out of Paradise is not so hard since the mothers are busy with hair and talk, which is the only thing they ever do. They just glance at us when we file past the shacks and then look away. We don't have to worry about the men under the jacaranda either since their eyes never lift from the draughts. It's only the little kids who see us and want to follow, but Bastard just wallops the naked one at the front with a fist on his big head and they all turn back.

When we hit the bush we are already flying, scream-singing like our voices will make us go faster. Sbho leads: Who discovered the way to India? and the rest of us rejoin, Vasco da Gama! Vasco da Gama! Vasco da Gama! Bastard is at the front because he won country-game today and he thinks that makes him our president or something, and then myself and Godknows, Stina, Sbho, and finally Chipo, who used to outrun everybody in all of Paradise but not anymore because somebody made her pregnant.

After crossing Mzilikazi we cut through another bush, zip right along Hope Street for a while before we cruise past the big stadium with the glimmering benches we'll never sit on, and finally we hit Budapest. We have to stop once though, for Chipo to sit down because of her stomach; sometimes when it gets painful she has to rest it.

When is she going to have the baby anyway? Bastard says. Bastard doesn't like it when we have to stop doing things because of Chipo's stomach. He even tried to get us not to play with her altogether.

She'll have it one day, I say, speaking for Chipo because she doesn't talk anymore. She is not mute-mute; it's just that when her stomach started showing she stopped talking. But she still plays with us and does everything else, and if she really, really needs to say something she'll use her hands.

What's one day? On Thursday? Tomorrow? Next week?

Can't you see her stomach is still small? The baby has to grow.

A baby grows outside of the stomach, not inside. That's the whole reason they are born. So they grow into adults.

Well, it's not time yet. That's why it's still a stomach.

Is it a boy or girl?

It's a boy. The first baby is supposed to be a boy.

But you're a girl, big head, and you're a first-born.

I said supposed, didn't I?

Just shut your kaka mouth you, it's not even your stomach.

I think it's a girl. I put my hands on it all the time and I've never felt it kick, not even once.

Yes, boys kick and punch and butt their heads. That's all they are good at.

Does she want a boy?

No. Yes. Maybe. I don't know.

Where exactly does a baby come out of?

The same way it gets into the stomach.

How exactly does it get into the stomach?

First, Jesus's mother has to put it in there.

No, not Jesus's mother. A man has to put it in there, my cousin Musa told me. Well, she was really telling Enia, and I was there so I heard.

Then who put it inside her?

How can we know if she won't say?

Who put it in there Chipo? Tell us, we won't tell.

Chipo looks at the sky. There's a tear in her one eye, but it's only a small one.

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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