We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. Paradigms of Migration: The Flight and the Fall

by Carmen Concilio

This essay analyses paradigms of migration in We Need New Names (2013) by NoViolet Bulawayo (b. 1981, Zimbabwe), a recent example of new African (or ‘Afropolitan’?) literature. A teenager idealises migration to the United States as a flight to emancipation, if compared to internal flows of forcedly removed people, or unsuccessful flows to South Africa, or even to Britain. As a counterpoint, a downfall follows the flight. The first American experience is a snowfall, then stumbling on the English Language is compared to a fall; physical as well as psychic downfalls send illegal migrants into the invisibility of undesirable jobs and into lying (Mehta 2016) but also into a mental condition. This final outcome of migration has been approached with the tools of ethno-psychiatry (Beneduce 2016-2018) and the recently published short story about migration by Maaza Mengiste, “This is What the Journey Does” (2018).