*** We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

Quite by chance, I read Americanah and We Need New Names within a few days of each other, and certainly the two stories have a lot in common, as both feature a plucky heroine escaping a dysfunctional African country (Zimbabwe here, Nigeria for Americanah). I much admired the first half of the book, which features Darling and her friends in the cleaved Zimbabwe society of haves and have-absolutely-nothings. Once she gets to a cold, illegal life in America, the story seems too conventional, almost clichéd. But the author is back in perfect form closer to the end when she bemoans the gulf between immigrants and their children, and between immigrants and the ones who were left behind and accuse them of abandoning their country.

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