NoViolet Bulawayo believes freedom begins with imagination

But because Bulawayo was not “white or Western”, said Shringarpure, her book led to thought-provoking conversations about artistic freedo...


But because Bulawayo was not “white or Western”, said Shringarpure, her book led to thought-provoking conversations about artistic freedom and whether “the African writer still bears some kind of responsibility to repair the Western gaze that determines so much of what we know”. on the continent.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the author of “The rise of the African novelsaid Bulawayo’s debut novel marked a shift in African writing that “misses those who criticize it as ‘poverty porn’.” As well as capturing the dire situation in Zimbabwe, he said, it “also captures a United States that is rarely talked about in African fiction.” When the protagonist, Darling, moves to Detroit — or as his friends call him, “Destroyedmichygen” — readers encounter, he said, the economic, cultural and linguistic challenges that many immigrants face in America.

“’We Need New Names’ is a kind of ‘before’ and ‘after’ novel, the kind that marks a new beginning, a new shift in African literary tradition,” Mukoma said. “For me, it’s a complete novel in terms of aesthetics and politics.”

Bulawayo worked on “Glory” for more than three years, during which she closely followed grassroots activism demanding change in countries, including SudanAlgeria, Uganda, Eswatini and the United States, where the Black Lives Matter Movement leaps.

Social media has become an important part of her research — two chapters of “Glory” consist of nothing but tweets — but she also kept a few novels about despots by her side, including “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” by Gabriel García Márquez, “The Raven Magician” by Ngugi wa Thiong’o and “The Wonderful Brief Life of Oscar Wao”, by Junot Díaz.

The writing process of “Glory” affirmed for her, she said, how “the fight against injustice is really the same across borders, across time.” Whatever challenges citizens face, she said, the path to freedom begins in our own imaginations.

“We have to insist on imagining the worlds we want to see,” she said. “It’s important to think that one day Zimbabwe will be free, one day all those countries that need to be free will be.”

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