Bulawayo brings Africa to Butler

ALEX TARNOWSKI | STAFF REPORTER

More than a hundred Butler University students, faculty and community members had the privilege of listening to a PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award recipient and Etisalat Prize winner Monday night at the Reilly Room.

NoViolet Bulawayo, author of her debut novel “We Need New Names,” discussed the book as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series.

Bulawayo received her MFA from Cornell University and currently teaches as a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, according to her website.

Her novel, published in 2013, follows the story of child immigrant Darling, who escapes the problems in her home of Zimbabwe by coming to America.

The story discusses political issues, HIV, self-identity and the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture. 

Bulawayo said she found inspiration for this story by channeling her own immigration to the United States from Zimbabwe.

“I wanted this book to be many things, one of them being a celebration of my culture,”she said.

The writer read excerpts from her novel to the crowd and responded to questions.

The audience laughed at the humor in her writing and fell silent during serious and heart-wrenching quotations.

Being able to speak at Butler was a gift, Bulawayo said.

“We Need New Names” has won the LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award, the Barnes and Noble Discover award.

It has also been selected for the NY Times Notable Books of 2013, among many other awards and accomplishments. 

Bulawayo said she wants her book to reach beyond the realms of African fiction and immigrant stories. She hopes her young protagonist will help make the novel relatable to every reader.

“I like to think of books as countries,” she said. “As a reader, when you pick up a book, it’s like having a Visa, and hopefully through reading you can become a citizen.”

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