Bonita Bates remembers when author NoViolet Bulawayo was a FOCUS student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. “She was humble, sweet, kind and studious,” Bates recalled. “I asked her 11 years ago to write a poem. I’ve kept it in my office all these years.”
Bates introduced Bulawayo during her July 30 book reading and signing at the Texas Township Campus. The event drew a crowd of more than 100. “I appreciate her and her willingness to give KVCC the props that she does,” Bates said, noting that Bulawayo mentions the college in the forward of her newly released book, “We Need New Names.”
Oprah included “We Need New Names” on her list of “Nine Must-Read Books for June 2013” and it was also on the short list for the Booker Man Prize for fiction, Britain’s premier literary award.
Bulawayo was born in Zimbabwe and moved to the U.S. at the age of 18. She graduated from Kalamazoo Valley in May 2003 and went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Cornell University, where she received a Truman Capote Fellowship. She is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, where she is working on a collection of eight stories.
When she first came to the U.S. from Zimbabwe, Bulawayo’s intent was to study law. It was at Kalamazoo Valley that she developed an interest in writing. She said she’s grateful to the instructors who encouraged her to develop that talent by studying creative writing instead of pre-law. “I realized that I was very passionate about writing and reading and I also received encouraging responses from my instructors,” she said.
During her July 30 return to campus, Bulawayo read excerpts from the book and then signed copies for the eager crowd that turned out to meet her. “I am who I am because of KVCC,” she said. “This is the place to be. This is a place to start.” She urged students in the audience to follow their dreams and to take advantage of all of the resources available to them through the college.