Two new African writers to watch

First aired on The Homestretch (15/07/13)


Several new novels by African women writers have been generating a lot of buzz in the publishing world. In a recent interview, The Homestretch talked to book blogger Anne Logan, of I've Read This, about two of her recent favourites: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo, which is among the 13 titles vying for this year's Man Booker Prize, and Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi.

Neither author lives in Africa now. Selasi was born in London, England, and lives in Rome, but her parents are of Nigerian and Ghanaian descent. Bulawayo was born in Zimbabwe, and emigrated to the United States as an adolescent.

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"Ghana Must Go is about a family essentially much like Taiye's. The parents are from Nigeria and Ghana. They emigrated to America and had children," Logan said. "The family itself are typical overachievers. The father is a surgeon, the mother was going to be a lawyer, the kids are getting the highest marks in their class, Harvard, Yale, that kind of thing. The father abandons the family and moves back to Ghana, and he dies at the young age of 50." In the wake of his death, the family gathers in Ghana, in an attempt to come to terms with what has happened and reunite as a family.

We Need New Names is the story of a young girl named Darling, who grows up in Zimbabwe and moves to America as a preteen, much like Selasi herself. "Essentially the story is about her assimilation into America, getting used to the experience, remembering her life in Zimbabwe, which is obviously very different," Logan said, adding that both books are interesting because they " show both sides of the immigration process."

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When asked the significance of the title We Need New Names, Logan said that the narrative is written from the point of view of the young girl, and many of the names are"a bit odd...Her name is Darling, she lives in a small village that's Paradise, which is obviously anything but. Her friends have names like Born Free, Forgiveness...you're not really sure whether these are names she's assigned her friends, or these are their real names, but you get the sense that they're desperate for these new names."

Although both books are debut novels, Logan pointed out that Bulawayo and Selasi have been nominated for awards for their short fiction, and We Need New Names and Ghana Must Go are being lauded by critics. "They've been getting great reviews, so I think you're going to be hearing more from these two ladies."




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