Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 224
We Need New Names is a 2013 novel by Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo. It tells the story of a young girl in Zimbabwe who eventually emigrates to the United States.
Darling Nonkululeko Nkala is the principal character and protagonist of the story, which is told in her voice. Like many of her peers, Darling is raised in poor conditions in the shantytown of Paradise. She and her friends are largely left to their own devices; "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," Darling recalls early in the story. Later in the book, Darling moves to the United States to live with her Aunt Fostalina.
The other characters in the story can be generally divided into two groups: Darling's peers, and Darling's family.
In the former category are Chipo, a victim of sexual abuse who becomes pregnant; Godknows, whose confrontational and macho characteristics are a recurrent theme, as when he threatens to steal from, and "defecate" on, a Chinese adult; the maternal Sbho; as well as Stino and Bastard.
In the latter category are the religious Mother of Bones, Darling's caretaker; her biological parents; and Aunt Fostalina, whose emigration to America is frequently mentioned by Darling in an aspirational context before Darling's own move to live with her.