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NoViolet Bulawayo: An Author Deserving of a Standing Ovation…

Who can capture the sweetness and rhythms of life, but the steady pen of a writer? Who can depict the agonies, the depth of degradation, and the perverse leanings of a man’s heart but the ever flowing words that are birthed as the keyboard clatters on? How would we keep track of our heroes past, bygone history, and present maladies if there were no writers treading the surface of this earth? We wouldn’t!

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For many years, Africans read foreign literature; in schools, libraries and social gatherings. With the entrance of the late Chinua Achebe and those of his calibre, that tide turned and keeps turning as a new generation of brilliant African authors such as NoViolet Bulawayo of Zimbabwe arise.

NoViolet was born in 1981 and raised in Zimbabwe. She attended Njube High School and later Mzilikazi High School for her A-levels. She went on to complete her college education in the United States, earning a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the Texas A&M University-Commerce and the Southern Methodist University respectively. In 2010, she earned another degree when she completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cornell University, where her work was recognized with a Truman Capote Fellowship and a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.

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Of her writing, Junot Diaz, BRFiction Editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’ had this to say: “I knew this writer was going to blow up. Her honesty, her voice, her formidable command of her craft-all were apparent from the first page.”

NoViolet won the 2011 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Hitting Budapest’, a tale about a gang of street children in a Zimbabwean shantytown and was shortlisted for the J.M. Coetzee – judged 2009 SA PEN Studzinsi Award. The United Kingdom’s ‘The Independent Newspaper’ qualified it thus: “The Caine Prize for African Writing has always been a good identifier of talent, and NoViolet Bulawayo, a writer of Zimbabwe’s post-Independence “born-free” generation, has delivered on the promise shown in her 2011 prize-winning story “Hitting Budapest”.

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Her debut novel, ‘We Need New Names’ was released in 2013 and has received rave reviews from far and beyond the African continent. It is the story of ‘ten-year-old Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They are children of Zimbabwe’s ‘lost decade’ who live in a shanty called Paradise and spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of Chipo’s stomach’.

NoViolet’s bibliography includes short stories and poems: Snapshots 2009, Poems 2009, Flag 2009, Siphepheli 2010, Shamisos 2011, Main Street 2011, amongst others.

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Ikhide .R. Ikheloa sums it up in a review of NoViolet’s debut outing, “In the 21st century, in the age of twitter and Facebook-induced ADHD, when a hard copy book is able to engage you nonstop for two days until you get to its end, all you can do is stand up at the end and give the author of such a miracle a rousing standing ovation. NoViolet Bulawayo’s debut book, We Need New Names is such a book. Let’s just say the book did not make me cry but it certainly aggravated my allergies, something in the pages made a mess of my tear ducts. Bulawayo kicked this one way out of the ball park; dear writers, this is the book to beat. It is a beautiful book, in every sense; every sentence is pretty, you want to take each word home and cuddle up to it.” []


Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
5 Things You Didn't Know About Jennifer in 2015: 1. Her newest collection of short stories, 'The Curious Case of the Small Pikin & Other Stories' is available on 2. She ported from Blogger to WordPress and shares her uncensored thoughts on 3. She is an aspiring Filmmaker & Talk-show Host[ess] 4. She's a mother of two, wife of one and daughter of God. 5. She plans to travel around the world in less than 80 days... Now you Know! Find me on Twitter: @jennynkem

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