If I had to imagine the writing process of many African writers, it would look like this: they draw up a list of hot-button issues on Africa: failing economes, brain drain, ailing health care, corrupt governments, human trafficking, immigrant experience and so on. Then they write stories that comment, reflect, or capture these issues.
It is always less about the story and more about hitting some imaginary list of social issues that they believe define Africa’s contemporary reality.
There are many reasons for this. And we know that it’s not a new phenomenon. Achebe’s generation did the same thing. But there are those of us who think it’s time for African writers to try out something different.
That’s why I’m not surprised that Helon Habila (Waiting for an Angel) complains that Bulawayo’s debut novel We Need New Names is driven by the desire to “cover every African topic; almost as if the writer had a checklist made from the morning’s news on Africa.”
Just as an aside. I love it when writers review other writers. There’s always a palpable tension.
Here is an excerpt of the review.
NoViolet Bulawayo‘s new novel, We Need New Names, is an extension of her Caine prize-winning short story, “Hitting Budapest“, and yes, it has fraudulent preachers and is partly set in a soul-crushing ghetto called Paradise, somewhere in Zimbabwe. Yes, there is a dead body hanging from a tree; there is Aids – the narrator’s father is dying of it; there is political violence (pro-Mugabe partisans attacking white folk and expelling them from their homes and chanting “Africa for Africans!”); there are street children – from the ranks of whom the narrator, Darling, finally emerges and escapes to America and a better life. Did I mention that one of the children, 10- or 12-year-old Chipo, is pregnant after being raped by her grandfather?
There is a palpable anxiety to cover every “African” topic; almost as if the writer had a checklist made from the morning’s news on Africa…And this is all in the first hundred pages,
Read full review HERE.
Image Via Telegraph.