We Need New Names: A Novel by NoViolet Bulawayo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have always wondered what happens to children removed from harsh lands to America, still seen as the land of dreams and opportunities. Darling's story, while fictional, gives some insight into that dramatic change.
Fleeing Africa with visions of the America she'd seen on TV, Darling winds up in significantly unglamorous Michigan. She is a young girl in need of guidance who never gets it, instead making her way mostly on her own. She lives a life that will be limited because she's not in America legally. Her childhood dreams don't seem that much different as she ages in America. Her family and friends back home don't have the real view of America that Darling lives. Her reality is harsh - she's destined to spend her life working jobs that keep her off the radar of the government. The worst thing that could happen is she could be found out and then sent home to a place and people she wouldn't recognize.
Her life is probably safer in American than it would be in her homeland. Her personal safety is not as threatened as it would be in Africa, but she seems lonely. No matter how "American" Darling becomes, she seems to still miss the things she loved about her African childhood.
This is the kind of story that reminds me how lucky I am to have been born in America. My life has never been run by fear or even the kind of abandonment so many children in this world see as normal. It is a raw story that may make some uncomfortable. It made me grateful.
I could never walk a mile in an immigrant's shoes. This book gives me a chance to walk just a few steps. Darling's dreams aren't all that different from mine or anyone else's - a chance for a good, safe, happy life. If there was one more chapter in this book, I'd like to think Darling gets all of that and more.
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