NoViolet Bulawayo is the author of the novel We Need New Names. ‘His Middle Name Was Not Jesus’ was published in the Caine Prize for African Writing anthology, The Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other Stories, in July 2016. We interviewed her about her writing, travel and whether she has ever stolen a book.
Where do you think you learned to tell a story?
I was raised on orature – all around me people just told stories like it was breathing, but it was really my late grandmother, Gog’ NaEdeni who sat us down to stories every night as kids, and my pops, who shared his mother’s love for story, who really made an impact. Without those two I doubt I’d be the kind of writer I am today.
Have you ever stolen a book?
No, not a book, I stole like, books as a kid. I know how it sounds, but how else was I supposed to get them, through prayer? I mean nobody was trying to buy me books, and the libraries, besides being far, had a lousy limit of two books at a time, which didn’t work for me at all coz I was a voracious reader. Thankfully my thievery stopped around high school but of course by then my love affair with books had turned into a marriage.
Where was the last place you went that changed your perspective on travel?
This past summer I visited Arusha, Tanzania, where I was fortunate enough to connect with a local who saved me from doing the usual touristy thing. I hung out with locals my whole time there and I saw a different side of the country that I wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. I didn’t need the use of my camera for instance, but I heard real stories from real people and it was special connecting on that level. When I travel I want to be able to tell stories about the people I met, not just describe the things I see.
If you were in a band what would it be called?
What’s your favourite bookshop?
Buffalo Books in Ithaca, NY.
If you could cross over into another artistic genre, what would it be?
Do you know why you do it?
For humanity, always.
What are you working on now?
Photograph © TheManBookerPrizes