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Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

“I Grew Up in a Space Where Language Was Alive” – We Need New Names Author NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New NamesThe German publication DW Akademie caught up with NoViolet Bulawayo on her first visit to Germany to speak about her critically acclaimed novel, We Need New Names.

In the story, Bulawayo shares a personal anecdote about her own name. Her birth name is Elizabeth Tshele but she decided to change it to NoViolet to honour her mother, Violet, who passed away when she was 18 months old. “No” means “with” in Ndebele, she explained, and she chose Bulawayo as her surname after her hometown.

Bulawayo talks about the title of her novel, the turbulence in Zimbabwe that sparked the story, the autobiographical elements and the biggest differences between herself and her protagonist, Darling. “My childhood was very normal and beautiful. Zimbabwe in the 80s was this land of promise,” she says. “But as Darling does not know the stability my generation enjoyed and experienced, her childhood is really under pressure.”

Read the article, in which the author speaks about the beauty of the language in the text, the language of her heart:

The language you chose for your protagonists, the children who live in Paradise, is a mixture of African and English vocabulary, neologisms, incantations, curses. How did you find this strong and colorful language?

I’d say I’m indebted to my culture. I grew up in a space where language was alive. Language was currency. I wanted to write a book that captured that, that would resonate especially with readers coming from that space. And a part of it also came from the fact that I was raised by storytellers, especially my father and my grandmother, of course the women who stayed home when I was growing up, they talked, they gossiped. So I was very conscious of language as a living beast. I wanted the book to be a celebration of that. I wanted that color and that texture and that pulse present.

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NoViolet Bulawayo: My English Gets its Energy from isiNdebele

We Need New NamesIn a recent interview with David Palumbo-Liu for the Los Angeles Review of Books, NoViolet Bulawayo said that her novel We Need New Names continues “the dialogue of the falling apartness of things” that was started by Chinua Achebe.

We Need New Names is set in a decolonised Zimbabwe and interrogates a nation that is no longer in confrontation with the “beast of colonisation”, as Bulawayo puts it, but with the effects of an unraveling system. “The scars are, and will always be there of course, but the beast has changed shape.”

The author talks about the decision to have a young narrator tell the story and explains how isiNdebele will always be the language of telling stories for her.

Bulawayo says her English “definitely gets its energy from my mother tongue, isiNdebele, it being the language that all the different storifying happened in, so that my imagination naturally understands it as the language of telling stories.

“I see its fingerprints in all I do,” she says.

Read the article:

Well that leads to an obvious question, so obvious that I didn’t even write it down initially; but I was just wondering, what authors influenced you?

I like the term “spoke to me” better — and my list includes my favorite Zimbabwean writer, Yvonne Vera, who was especially important to me in my early years. There’s Tsitsi Dangarembga, who wrote one of my favorite books, Nervous Conditions, she is another, and so is Junot Díaz. Toni Morrison, Colum McCann, Zakes Mda, Jhumpa Lahiri, IsiNdebele writers Barbara Makhalisa and NS Sigogo, and many others. And of course, in the list are the many storytellers I’ve known, two of which I mentioned, they are not writers, but when I think about “influences,” I’d say these are even at the top of my list.

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NoViolet Bulawayo to Participate in 38th Annual Writers Week at University of California, Riverside

We Need New NamesThe 38th annual Writers Week hosted by the University of California, Riverside is set to take place from 2 – 5 February and promises to end on a high note with award-winning Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo.

The author of We Need New Names joins international wirters like Geoff Dyer, Alan Soldofsky, MariNaomi, Ching-In Chen, Claudia Rankine, Tod Goldberg, Jane Smiley and Mona Simpson on the programme.

Bulawayo is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her novel has received significant attention since it was published and was included on the shortlist of many respected awards and won a host of literary prizes, including the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature. She will be the guest of honour at a Los Angeles Review of Books Dinner the day after her lecture at Writers Week.

Admission to all UCR discussions are free. If you’re in the area, don’t miss this!

Event Details

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NoViolet Bulawayo the Guest of Honour at Los Angeles Review of Books Luminary Dinner

We Need New NamesZimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo, author of We Need New Names, will be the guest of honour at a Los Angeles Review of Books Luminary Dinner in America in February.

The dinner will take place on Friday, 6 February. Tickets cost $150 per person and can be bought on the Eventbrite website. The venue is yet to be announced.

We Need New Names has been extraordinarily received abroad, being shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award, and won the the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award.

Don’t miss it!

Event Details

  • Book tickets on Eventbrite
  • Date: Friday, 6 February 2015
  • Time: 7:00 to 10:00 PM
  • Refreshments: Catered supper
  • Cost: $150 per person, $250 per couple

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Video: NoViolet Bulawayo on Writing, Reading and her Family’s Reaction to her Work

We Need New NamesNoViolet Bulawayo chatted to the American National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″ foundation about her writing and reading habits.

Bulawayo was included on the “5 Under 35″ list for 2013 for her debut novel, We Need New Names. In the inteview she speaks about how her work has been received by her family – especially her taciturn father – and when she really started to feel like “a writer”.

When asked about her ideal reading experience, Bulawayo says: “I am looking for a book that doesn’t allow me to put it down. I like to drink my books, I like to inhale them – in one sitting if possible. The last book that did that for me was The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu.”

Watch the interview:

NoViolet Bulawayo Interviewed at 2013 5Under35 from National Book Foundation on Vimeo.

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NoViolet Bulawayo Wins The PEN / Hemingway Foundation Award for Debut Fiction

We Need New NamesCongratulations to NoViolet Bulawayo on winning the 2014 PEN / Hemingway Foundation Award for Debut Fiction.

This award is given to an author who publishes a novel, or a book of short stories, and has not previously published a book of fiction.

The late Mary Hemingway, a member of PEN, founded the award in 1976 both to honour the memory of her husband, Ernest Hemingway, and to recognise distinguished first books of fiction. The award is funded by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, which has been administered by The Hemingway Society since 1987, and PEN New England. In addition to $10,000, the winner also receives a one-week residency in The Distinguished Visiting Writers Series at the University of Idaho’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. In addition, the winner and competition finalists and honourable mentions receive Ucross Residency Fellowships at the Ucross Foundation, a retreat for artists and writers in Wyoming, USA. A panel of three distinguished fiction writers selects the winner.

The award ceremony for the PEN / Hemingway Award and the PEN New England Awards will be held on 6 April 2014.

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NoViolet Bulawayo Explains Where the Idea for We Need New Names First Came From

We Need New Names“I am really interested in children’s voices, being that they are not powerful in any society,” NoViolet Bulawayo tells Evan Karp in a recent interview for SFGate.

“They are voices unheard. Nobody ever asks for their opinions, yet they are living in and suffering and dealing with cultural questions that are created by adults. So I just wanted to do a project where children try to speak their own wisdom to our world,” Bulawayo says.

The project turned out to be her debut novel, We Need New Names, which won the 2014 PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction this week and the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature last month. It was also shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award.

Read the interview:

NoViolet Bulawayo left Zimbabwe at 18 to study law in America, but a series of photos changed her plans. The pictures showed people displaced by a 2005 government cleanup operation; the first one Bulawayo saw – of a child sitting on the rubble of his bulldozed home – inspired her debut novel, “We Need New Names.”

The book was short-listed for last year’s Guardian First Book Award; when they published an excerpt, they also ran an introduction, in which she said: “I became obsessed with where the people would go, what their stories were, and how those stories would develop – and more importantly, what would happen to the kid in the first picture I saw. The writing project essentially became about finding out.”

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We Need New Names Characters Return in NoViolet Bulawayo’s Story “Happy Birthday Africa President”

We Need New NamesThe day before Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe turned 90, the Munyori Literary Journal published a short story by NoViolet Bulawayo titled “Happy Birthday Africa President”, featuring characters from her debut novel We Need New Names.

The day after the story was published, Bulawayo was announced the winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature. She won the Caine Prize in 2011 and last year We Need New Names was shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award.

In “Happy Birthday Africa President”, Bastard, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Stina discuss the posters of their president that have popped up all over the place, announcing his 90th birthday. The narrator, who is possibly Darling, thinks to herself that her grandfather, who isn’t even close to 90, looks far older than this man with his “fresh and finely polished” skin: “if you could buy skin, his would be expensive none of us would afford it.”

Bulawayo introduces a new character, Brother Nkululeko, who gets into an argument with Stina over their differing views of government officials:

We get to Number 10 to find the president raising fists all over. On the big wall around the power station that caught fire last Sunday, on the tall gates of the blue Zioja church, on the fat pole where we sometimes play spin, on the shed where Clifford cuts hair, on the durawall that surrounds the tuck-shops where old ladies sit selling all sorts of stuff, on the sides of the shed where people wait for combis to town, on the trees along the main road—the posters are everywhere. We stand in a huddle by the power station wall and tilt our heads and look at the posters one by one even though they are exactly the same.

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Image courtesy The Chronicle Herald

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Video: NoViolet Bulawayo Reads from We Need New Names at 5 Under 35 (Plus: Intro by Junot Díaz)

We Need New NamesLast year, NoViolet Bulawayo was selected by Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz as one of the American National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35″ for her debut novel, We Need New Names. Bulawayo, along with the four other selected authors, Molly Antopol, Amanda Coplin, Daisy Hildyard and Merritt Tierce, was invited to read from her novel at the 5 Under 35 event.

Introducing Bulawayo, Diaz recalls receiving an early draft of one of the chapters from the Man Booker shortlisted We Need New Names: “I knew with a foresight that has never returned that this work and this writer were going to blow up in a thousand different ways.”

“It is a magnificent novel, so alive with what is human and true that one can hardly, barely credit it,” Diaz continued. Bulawayo then read an excerpt from the part of the book set in America:

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Image courtesy The Telegraph

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Podcast: NoViolet Bulawayo Talks to Nikesh Shukla About We Need New Names and the Country-game

We Need New NamesNoViolet Bulawayo was interviewed by author Nikesh Shukla on The Subaltern Podcast about her Man Booker-shortlisted novel, We Need New Names.

Bulawayo says that her book starts with Darling and her friends going about their day to day lives against a background of things falling apart. Shukla asks her to explain the characters’ “country-game”, which Bulawayo says she also played growing up.

“It’s a game that I think showed our awareness of the world, kids just choose countries and there’s a power dynamic in a sense that we used to pick the big superpowers. We’d fight over names like the US, the UK…the first person gets in the ring and picks a country, calls on a supposedly weaker country and depending on how fast you get in the ring and your ability to eliminate a weaker country, you can at the end of it be the last country standing,” Bulawayo explains.

Listen to the podcast:

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