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NoViolet Bulawayo

Author of We Need New Names

5+ Works 1,633 Members 94 Reviews

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Works by NoViolet Bulawayo

We Need New Names (2013) 1,343 copies
Glory (2022) 277 copies
Precisamos de Novos Nomes (2014) 9 copies

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This book provides an incredibly interesting perspective of a young girl immigrating to the US from Zimbabwe. I was struck by how the story jumps in time, skipping months or years to get to the next event. It reminded me a bit of "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros in that regard. Watching Darling grow up and see how her time in the US changes her from who she was in Zimbabwe is very poignant. There is a lot to think about with this book, and I feel it would make a good book club book.… (more)
½
 
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BarnesBookshelf | 84 other reviews | Oct 30, 2023 |
3.5⭐

“This is not an animal farm but Jidada with a -da and another -da!”

NoViolet Bulawayo’s Glory is an allegorical novel set in a fictional African country, Jidada, with an animal population throughout - anthropomorphic horses, dogs, pigs, goats, and chickens and others – comprising the ruling class, military, ministers and the commoners. Inspired by the 2017 coup that led to the removal of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's president of nearly four decades from power, the story begins with the long-serving President, Father of the Nation, Old Horse, hailed for liberating Jidada from its colonizers decades ago, being removed from power by a carefully orchestrated coup. The removal of their leader was a cause for celebration, but when the Old Horse’s former Vice President, Tuvius “Tuvy” Delight Shasha ( a character based on Mugabe’s successor Emmerson Mnangagwa) quickly assumes the position of power - The Savior –with his own set of sycophants and yes-men at his beck and call- the Jidadans’ hopes for a better future are soon dashed. As the narrative progresses, political turmoil ensues - a seemingly never-ending cycle of corruption, megalomania, and oppression. Amidst the chaos, we meet Destiny, who has recently returned to her homeland after a long exile. Her family had suffered during the Old Horse’s regime and was witness to some of the most horrific violence in the history of the nation. She returns only to see history repeating itself under the new leadership. She shares in the pain and disillusionment of those who had hoped for their country’s better future but remains hopeful that a revolution with new and powerful voices would lead their country forward and prove to be a catalyst for positive change.

Overall, I found Glory to be a creative, thought-provoking and powerful read that manages to convey a strong message under a veneer of absurdity and humor. In several interviews and her Booker Library write-up the author has talked about how she was inspired by George Orwell’s Animal Farm while framing this novel. This is a lengthy novel - long drawn and descriptive and suffers from mild repetition (the frequency of certain words/phrases in the narrative could be a tad distracting for the reader but proved entertaining in audio narration)- but the author manages to weave a compelling narrative. It took me a while to get used to the tone and pace of the narrative , but as the story progressed (around the 20% mark), I was immersed. The author references several real characters and events from the past and present and and some of the horrific real events that are referred to within this story (including the Gukurahundi genocide of 1982) are hard to read. The nod to native folklore and storytelling enriches the narrative, and the humor and satirical elements render the bleak parts of this story easier to read. The author's characterizations of strong female characters ("femals") in this novel - be it the Old Horse's power hungry wife or the women actively opposing corruption and tyranny is worth mentioning and lends a feminist tone to the narrative.

While I initially found the anthropomorphism amusing, given the length of this novel, I can’t help but wonder whether this novel would have been equally (or even more, for that matter) impactful had the characters not been presented as talking animals who behave (almost in all respects) like human beings. Though the author’s story is inspired by Zimbabwe's political climate and the aftermath of Mugabe’s regime, all we need to do is take a look at the world around us- despots in power, regimes that have fallen, the state of contemporary politics the world around - and appreciate the timeliness and relevance of this novel.

I paired my reading with the excellent audio narration by Chipo Chung which truly enhanced my experience.

“Tholukuthi through these tales we learned there were in fact many untold narratives that were left out of the Seat of Power’s tales of the nation, that were excluded from Jidada’s great books of history. That the nation’s stories of glory were far from being the whole truth, and that sometimes the Seat of Power’s truths were actually half-truths and mistruths as well as deliberate erasures. Which in turn made us understand the importance not only of narrating our own stories, our own truths, but of writing them down as well so they were not taken from us, never altered, tholukuthi never erased, never forgotten.”

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srms.reads | 8 other reviews | Sep 4, 2023 |
Though I did not exactly enjoy this book, it did provoke a lot of thought and reflection and I admired it for that. The subject matter is deadly serious, but treated in a fanciful, somewhat fantastical vein. The setting is African country "Jidada" (aka Zimbabwe) and its violent political history. The author distances us from the horror by portraying the characters as animals, a la "Animal Farm". Unlike "AF" however, the thoughts and feelings in "Glory" are 100% human. I think this is an approach that works because if the characters were depicted as as humans, the tragic events would probably have been too much. The fairy tale elements let the author spin ever more baroque and over the top examples of unchecked despotism, but also allows her to fashion a hopeful ending that feels possible, even though the odds are against it in the real world. Reality check: the despot who succeeded the hated Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabe in 2017 is still in power.… (more)
 
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Octavia78 | 8 other reviews | Jul 26, 2023 |
NoViolet Bulawayo riffs on the ideas of Animal Farm to produce a metaphorical story of the horrors of post-colonial Zimbabwe; a country called Jidada, populated by animals.

This is an excellent idea, but I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as I'd hoped, for a few reasons. At the outset, the book is stuffed with prolix speechifying. Bulawayo even manages to make a coup sound boring, by drowning it in a tide of pompous oratory. It takes about 100 pages before Bulawayo gets beyond this stultifying prose and starts to recount what becomes a truly hair-raising story of dictatorship, violent repression, and resistance.

I didn't like the occasional inclusion of massively repetitive phrase and sentences that I could only skim over. I don't see that prose is improved much by encouraging the reader not to read it. Finally, her stylistic tic of inserting the word "tholukuthi" all over the place just annoyed me. It is never explained what this word means, and it seems to have different shades of meaning. The effect is to obscure understanding of a host of sentences, paragraphs and chapter headings which, again, doesn't do much for the reader.
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gjky | 8 other reviews | Apr 9, 2023 |

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