Man Booker prize nominee NoViolet Bulawayo this week shared her experiences of writing We Need New Names at an event on Tuesday hosted by the British Council and Weaver Press.
Bulawayo read an extract from her shortlisted work to a riveted audience; the venue was packed to overflowing. During the discussion afterwards, where she was first interviewed by award-wining filmmaker and freelance writer Rumbie Katedza, and then answered questions from the audience, Bulawayo spoke of how her experience in the diaspora influenced her book.
“Displacement is a running theme in my work,” she said.
Bulawayo was 18 when she left Zimbabwe for a new life in America. She left at a time when the country was beginning to experience social, economical and political meltdown.
After 13 years in the diaspora she comes home with a book that tells a story of the hardships of settling down in a foreign land. “People leave for greener pastures but it’s not all rosy out there,” she said.
Although she was out of the country, Bulawayo told how writing about home was made easy through her access through the internet. She praised Fungai Machirori as a photographer who brings people in the diaspora closer to home.
We Need New Names is the first Zimbabwean novel to be long listed for the Man Booker Prize.
“I did not just bring a new Zimbabwean book but also a new flavor,” said Bulawayo. She says that she is proud to be identified as an African writer, saying that in the past African stories were told by other people not necessarily Africans.
“Our books will speak out of who and what we are,” she said.
We Need New Names has also been nominated for the Guardian First Book Award. It is published by Weaver Press and is available at the Book Café.
Harare News has reviewed the book for the September issue. Watch out for it here too.