Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Alumni NoViolet Bulawayo - Book Reading/Signing for "We Need New Names"

07/30/2013  12:00 pm to 1:30 pm

Student Commons Theatre, TTC 4240

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Kalamazoo Valley alumni NoViolet Bulawayo will read from her book, “We Need New Names.”

Oprah included the book on her list of “Nine Must-Read Books for June 2013.” The book was also one of 13 included on the long list for the 2013 Man Booker prize for fiction, Britain's premier literary award.

Bulawayo won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing and her work has been published in numerous anthologies, Boston Review, Callaloo, and Newsweek.

"We're proud of all of our graduates and NoViolet is no exception. I've read “We Need New Names.” It is an inspiring story and powerful book,” said Kalamazoo Valley Community College President Marilyn Schlack. “We are so glad that she has returned to campus to share her encouraging story with the community."

Bulawayo was born and raised in Zimbabwe and now lives in the U.S. She graduated from Kalamazoo Valley in May 2003 and went on to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at Cornell University, where she was recognized with a Truman Capote Fellowship. She is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She said she is pleased to be returning to Kalamazoo Valley.

“KVCC is where I took my very first creative writing class and many others after that -- the place that essentially gave me permission to pursue writing and these many years later, I am still grateful to encouraging mentors like Denise Miller, Sara Rivara, Rob Haight, John Corbin, the late Pat Cherpas, Marion Boyer, among others, for taking me seriously. Bonita Bates and the Focus Program were always amazing sources of inspiration, and I try to drop by and see her whenever I visit my family in town. I have been to many schools in my academic career obviously, but Kalamazoo Valley remains for me the most important because of the formative experience I got there.”

The book has been praised widely.

Publishers Weekly said this about the book:

... Indeed the first half of the book, which follows a group of destitute but fearless children in a ravaged, never-named African country, is a remarkable piece of literature. Ten-year-old Darling is Virgil, leading us through Paradise, the shantytown where she and her friends Bastard, Godknows, Sbho, and Stina live and play. “Before,” they lived in real houses and went to school—that is, before the paramilitary policemen came and destroyed it all, before AIDS, before Darling’s friend Chipo was impregnated by her own grandfather. Now they roam rich neighborhoods, stealing bull guavas and hiding in trees while gangs raid white homes. Darling and her friends invent new names for themselves from American TV and spent their time trying to get “rid of Chipo’s stomach.” Abruptly, Darling lands with her aunt in America, seen as an ugly place, and absorbs the worst of its culture—Internet porn, obscene consumerism, the depreciation of education. Darling may not be worse off, but her life has not improved in any meaningful way. When Bulawayo won the Caine Prize, she said, “I want to go and write from home. It’s a place which inspires me. I don’t feel inspired by America at all,” and the chapters set outside of Africa make this abundantly clear. In this promising novel’s early chapters, Bulawayo’s use of English is disarmingly fresh, her arrangement of words startling.

Copies of the book are available for purchase in the campus bookstore. Bulawayo will be available to sign autographs after her presentation. “We’re excited that NoViolet is returning to campus,” said Bonita Bates, director of Kalamazoo Valley’s Transfer Resource Services and Focus Program. Bulawayo maintained contact with Bates after she left Kalamazoo. She also wrote a poem for the Focus Program which Bates still keeps in her office. “We’re so proud of her success and excited about the opportunity to help share her writing with all of Kalamazoo.” Bates said.

The event is free and the public is invited to attend the program on July 30.