Noviolet Bulawayo and Father

I always wondered what my pops, who is 74, thought about my writing coz we’ve never addressed it like that. I mean we talk on the phone and trip and laugh and gossip and I get schooled and scolded if its relevant, and he tells me stories etc, but zip nada about my writing.

Even as I presented him with an autographed hard copy of We Need New Names, alongside books by Colum McCann and Manuel Munoz on my visit home about a week ago, he acted like it wasn’t there. No pat on the back, no comment or acknowledgement besides a grunt.

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If I didn’t know him I would have been shattered, but then I do; he’s my pops after all—the unsentimental man who rarely dished straight-up praise to us when we were growing up. I’d do well in school for example and he’d express his happiness to an uncle or something but never directly to me. Weird dude!

But back to the story… I don’t need to wonder much now, about how he feels I mean. Because I saw, under my pop’s worn pillow, a newspaper with an article plus an interview I’d done back when I won the Caine Prize a couple of years ago; I’m told he sometimes sleeps with the aging thing under his pillow, an action that to me is worth more than a million conversations.

I was deeply, deeply moved, but instead of expressing how I felt, I too put on a cloak of silence because there were no words. No, no words for my beautiful, complex pops who will say a lot about many things and absolutely nothing about certain ones.

Bulawayo is the 12th winner of the Caine Prize for Fiction. Her debut novel We Need New Names is currently getting massive amounts of love from critics. This piece was originally published on her blog: NoViolet Blogs