“And when they asked us where we were from, we exchanged glances and smiled with the shyness of child brides. They said, Africa? We nodded yes. What part of Africa? We smiled. Is it that part where vultures wait for famished children to die? We smiled. Where the life expectancy is thirty-five years? We smiled. Is is there where dissidents shove AK-47s between women’s legs? We smiled. Where people run about naked? We smiled. That part where they massacred each other? We smiled. Is it where the old president rigged the election and people were tortured and killed and a whole bunch of them put in prison and all, there where they are dying of cholera – oh my God, yes, we’ve seen your country; it’s been on the news.”
Darling grows up in a shantytown called Paradise in Zimbabwe. Her family used to be rich, but then lost everything, her father went to South Africa and hasn’t returned, so all Darling has is her group of friends. Then, when she is 10, she is sent to DestroyedMichygen to live with her aunt. Though she gets all the food she can eat and has every Apple product available, she is homesick.
Darling’s narrative is a delight to read, first of all because it starts out with the voice of small child who doesn’t understand everything she witnesses and then grows until Darling is a teenager who is an expert in American slang. It is easy to follow her narrative and it is an easy read despite the serious topics which are brewing underneath. Although Zimbabwe is never mentioned, it is easy to figure out which country and despot it’s all about. And yet, my favourite part was the American one. It is probably because of the culture crash, and the way she describes the perfect normal life of teenagers.
This book would have dazzled me if it wasn’t for the fact that I have read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie last year. They are very similar in both theme and setting, although Darling is just a kid. They are both great and I recommend them both.