Welcome to the
2017-18 UM-Flint Common Read!

We invite you to read the selected text and join in discussions and programs in both the Fall 2017 and Winter 2018 semesters. Since 2011, the Common Read Committee has selected a book that students, faculty and staff are encouraged to read, in order to bring the campus together around a common reading experience and the conversations it generates. The author of the book generally visits campus, delivering a keynote address and meeting with small groups of students and faculty.

The 2017-2018 Common Read is
NoViolet Bulawayo’s novel, We Need New Names

We Need New Names is a novel of displacement and relocation that speaks to people’s movements across cultural and political borders in the contemporary world. It begins in a Zimbabwean shantytown, narrated in the remarkable voice of a young girl, Darling, and ends in Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Edwidge Danticat, novelist, essayist, and our inaugural Common Read author, describes it as “an exquisite and powerful first novel, filled with an equal measure of beauty and horror and laughter and pain.”

And when they asked where we were from, we exchanged glances and smiled.  They said, Africa? We nodded yes . . . How America surprised us at first. If you were not happy with your body you could go to a doctor and say, for instance, I was born in the wrong body, just make me right. . . We looked at people sending their aging parents away to be taken care of by strangers. We looked at parents not being allowed to beat their own children. We looked at strange things like these, things we had never seen in our lives, and said, What kind of land is this, just what kind of land? We could not use our own languages, and so when we spoke our voices came out bruised. When we talked, our tongues thrashed madly in our mouths, staggered like drunken men. (pp. 239-242)

—NoViolet Bulawayo, "We Need New Names"