What We Lose
“The debut novel of the year.” –VogueOne of the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, Houston Chronicle, LA Daily News, Nylon, and Elle’s Books to Read This Summer“Zinzi Clemmons’s debut novel signals the emergence of a voice that refuses to be ignored.” —Paul Beatty, Booker-winning author of The Sellout“Stunning. . . . Powerfully moving and beautifully wrought, What We Lose reflects on family, love, loss, race, womanhood, and the places we feel home.” —BuzzfeedFrom an author of rare, haunting power, a stunning novel about a young African-American woman coming of age—a deeply felt meditation on race, sex, family, and countryRaised in Pennsylvania, Thandi views the world of her mother’s childhood in Johannesburg as both impossibly distant and ever present. She is an outsider wherever she goes, caught between being black and white, American and not. She tries to connect these dislocated pieces of her life, and as her mother succumbs to cancer, Thandi searches for an anchor—someone, or something, to love. In arresting and unsettling prose, we watch Thandi’s life unfold, from losing her mother and learning to live without the person who has most profoundly shaped her existence, to her own encounters with romance and unexpected motherhood. Through exquisite and emotional vignettes, Clemmons creates a stunning portrayal of what it means to choose to live, after loss. An elegiac distillation, at once intellectual and visceral, of a young woman’s understanding of absence and identity that spans continents and decades, What We Lose heralds the arrival of a virtuosic new voice in fiction.

What We Lose Details

TitleWhat We Lose
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 11th, 2017
PublisherViking
ISBN0735221715
ISBN-139780735221710
Number of pages192 pages
Rating
GenreFiction, Cultural, Africa, Race, Adult, Literary Fiction, African American, Contemporary, Adult Fiction, Novels, Family

What We Lose Review

  • Darkowaa
    March 18, 2017
    Anyone whose lost a parent will deeply resonate with this novella. 'What We Lose' is thoughtful, meditative, intimate and surprisingly not morbid. I REALLY hope this book isn't marketed as a book about race, because its sooo much more than that. Race is just one aspect explored. For me, this book is about grief/the impact of losing love and belongingness. Illness, race, mental health, social class are weaved into the overall theme of grief and the quest to belong. I found the vignettes very abso Anyone whose lost a parent will deeply resonate with this novella. 'What We Lose' is thoughtful, meditative, intimate and surprisingly not morbid. I REALLY hope this book isn't marketed as a book about race, because its sooo much more than that. Race is just one aspect explored. For me, this book is about grief/the impact of losing love and belongingness. Illness, race, mental health, social class are weaved into the overall theme of grief and the quest to belong. I found the vignettes very absorbing and heartfelt. Some bits of the text felt philosophical which was kind of random to me, but appreciated. I love how pictures and graphs and random news articles are scattered throughout the book - it gave the storytelling a nonconventional feel. I wonder how much of the story is based off Zinzi's life, as she and Thandi (the heroine of this book) share similar backgrounds. The world is so absorbed in American politics (aka Trump) that we forget about the intense and ever present racism in post-apartheid South Africa. Thandi and her family are coloreds and wealthy (her Mom's side), so we get a different account of the racial dynamics through their lens, which is refreshing. It was interesting to see how American racial relations and South African racial relations were juxtaposed and how they impacted Thandi's life and even played a role in her grieving process and the important decisions she makes in her life. There's a lot more I can say about this book, but an in-depth review will be posted on africanbookaddict.com, closer to the release date in July.Special thanks to Zinzi Clemmons and the publishers for the ARC. This was a pleasant weekend read!
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  • Little Hux
    June 19, 2017
    When I started reading What We Lose, I thought it was a memoir. 50 pages in I happened to turn over the proof and noticed the words “a novel”, alongside realising that the author’s name was Zinzi, not Thandi. I had become so enraptured in the writing, I hadn’t for a second thought it wasn’t memoir. Thandi is such a fully realised person that I fully believed What We Lose was the story of her life, and a life that actually lived.What We Lose follows Thandi through the death of her mother, told th When I started reading What We Lose, I thought it was a memoir. 50 pages in I happened to turn over the proof and noticed the words “a novel”, alongside realising that the author’s name was Zinzi, not Thandi. I had become so enraptured in the writing, I hadn’t for a second thought it wasn’t memoir. Thandi is such a fully realised person that I fully believed What We Lose was the story of her life, and a life that actually lived.What We Lose follows Thandi through the death of her mother, told through short vignettes in a style straight out of the literary memoir genre. Thandi is both American and South African, but she feels not quite either, and the non-linearity of the novel finds her both in love and falling out of love at the same time.Through her eyes (and Zinzi’s) the reader is told a lot about the history of South Africa, from Oskar Pistorious to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to the photography of Kevin Carter. The novel also includes photographs and short poems, creating a multimedia experience akin to Claudia Rankin’s poetry collections.While it took me only an evening to read this novella, the emotions linger. Clemmons explores the spectrum of grief from the sudden bereavement to forgetting their voice. Her writing is honest and ragged raw. I’m still thinking about Thandi now, and wondering how about her life after the novel.I truly, truly think that What We Lose is going to grab the attention of several literary awards. It’s an impressive, profound novella that balances history with the complexities of romance, grief and a sense of belonging.What to read next:Homegoing by Yaa GyasiPassing by Nella LarsenAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieThank you kindly to the team at Harper Collins Insider and 4th Estate Press for sharing this copy with me.
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  • Mary
    May 24, 2017
    What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, July 2017Clemmons debut novel reads as a memoir; an exposition of grief. The protagonist of this slim work is Thandi, a young African-American woman who lives between two worlds: South Africa and Philadelphia. Her cherished and vivacious mother (a head nurse at a university hospital) has her roots in a wealthy South African family, while her father is a mathematics department head at a local college. When Thandi’s mother passes away, after a long, painful, and pro What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, July 2017Clemmons debut novel reads as a memoir; an exposition of grief. The protagonist of this slim work is Thandi, a young African-American woman who lives between two worlds: South Africa and Philadelphia. Her cherished and vivacious mother (a head nurse at a university hospital) has her roots in a wealthy South African family, while her father is a mathematics department head at a local college. When Thandi’s mother passes away, after a long, painful, and protracted illness, she loses herself in despair as the grief swallows her up. “This is the sad truth. I wish, sometimes, for even a bad dream of her that I used to have. It would be preferable to this absence. I will always be motherless.” Clemmons presents an intimate portrait of Thandi’s struggle to find her place in the world: “I’ve often thought that being a light-skinned black woman is like being a well-dressed person who is also homeless. You may be able to pass in mainstream society, appearing acceptable to others, even desired. But in reality, you have nowhere to rest, nowhere to feel safe.” Clemmons offers a fresh perspective on how race and class compare in the U.S. and in post-Apartheid South Africa. Anyone who has lost someone precious can identify with Clemmons’ honest and truthful description of life-altering grief and the questionable decisions which often compel the bereaved. Highly recommended for readers of both fiction and memoir.
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  • Alison Lowrey
    June 23, 2017
    I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Upon finishing this book, I felt satisfaction. There was no elaborate plot, no rush or thrill. However, the story of an individual person is built, fulfilled, and completed. This novel describes the many losses of our main character, as well as those most closely linked to her. While the novel chronicles these losses (loss of identity, love, stability, etc.) the most intrinsic loss she experiences is that of her South African mother. She uses this loss to I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway. Upon finishing this book, I felt satisfaction. There was no elaborate plot, no rush or thrill. However, the story of an individual person is built, fulfilled, and completed. This novel describes the many losses of our main character, as well as those most closely linked to her. While the novel chronicles these losses (loss of identity, love, stability, etc.) the most intrinsic loss she experiences is that of her South African mother. She uses this loss to create a picture of the South African nation, as well as the significance of that in her own life. I never felt compelled to sympathy-- it is written, instead, in a manner that allows the reader to stare loss and despair in the face and understand the honesty of it.
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  • Jerrod
    May 12, 2017
    Just finished reading a galley of this lovely book while traveling, which feels surprisingly apt. This is a book about interstitial spaces and identities, about the things that confound tidy categorization and meaning-making. Zinzi has done an excellent job of honing in on the small inconsistencies, surprises and ruptures that come to form the fabric of our lives. Particularly "the hairline fractures" of loss. The ways that absence, or its potential, can shape our choices and movements. In the b Just finished reading a galley of this lovely book while traveling, which feels surprisingly apt. This is a book about interstitial spaces and identities, about the things that confound tidy categorization and meaning-making. Zinzi has done an excellent job of honing in on the small inconsistencies, surprises and ruptures that come to form the fabric of our lives. Particularly "the hairline fractures" of loss. The ways that absence, or its potential, can shape our choices and movements. In the background of these themes are concerns of class and race, with a global perspective (deeply intertwined with the author's dueling national inheritances), and these are negotiated deftly and with an attention to the dissonance between how they act upon us and how we try to make sense of them in real time. The progression of the novel is in broad strokes linear. But most of its individual prose morsels flit between past, present and future. And this feels effective in communicating the experience of being embodied in the world. Of trying to make choices. Choices we come to contemplate, often with regret; constantly renegotiating. Comparisons to Jenny Offill's The Dept. of Speculation seem inevitable and so be it, though this book is decidedly idiosyncratic; its concerns are its own. This signals the emergence of a great new voice for literature of the black experience and, in particular, of the black avant garde. I look forward to being pulled out of common inertia by Ms. Clemons in the future. It is clear that she has a keen eye and a fine mind; we need more work like this. That challenges us to question our most basic concerns: what are we doing here, on this contested earth, and why?
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  • Ashley
    May 22, 2017
    I won this book as a Goodreads Giveaway. In What we lose, Clemmons is lyrical, honest, and impossible to put down. If this is her debut, I can't wait for the encore!
  • Ilana
    June 16, 2017
    I don't even know how to start writing a review for something that left me gobsmacked on every other page. Maybe I'll start the review with that.
  • Renee
    June 5, 2017
    Have you ever read a book and had to repeatedly remind yourself it wasn't a true story? That you weren't reading a memoir? That the beautifully written passages were works of fiction and not someone's own struggle? This is how I felt while reading What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. I'm not sure if it is because I've been reading more memoirs than usual lately or if the writing is just so honest that it was hard to differentiate real from not but I constantly had to remind myself that this was ficti Have you ever read a book and had to repeatedly remind yourself it wasn't a true story? That you weren't reading a memoir? That the beautifully written passages were works of fiction and not someone's own struggle? This is how I felt while reading What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. I'm not sure if it is because I've been reading more memoirs than usual lately or if the writing is just so honest that it was hard to differentiate real from not but I constantly had to remind myself that this was fiction. It was that good.Told in short vignettes, chapters that sometimes were no longer than a sentence, Clemmons created a sense of reading something incredibly personal. Almost as if I had stumbled upon the diary of Thandie, the main character. Her story of loss (her mother) as well as the pull between two cultures, her own skin color (not black, not white), her place in life and in love, as a mother and a wife and then not. Oh gosh. There was so much happening here, in this short book. The glimpse into Thandie's world, her struggles and the loss of her mother (I can't even imagine) gave me pause time and again to think. It brought to mind the quote from To Kill a Mockingbird, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."Zinzi Clemmons did an excellent job making me feel like I was reading a true story, she made me question what I would do in similar circumstances and left me considering life from a different perspective. I have nothing in common with the main character in this book, with her struggles or her setbacks, her losses or achievements but actively putting myself in her shoes while I read through this short work of fiction made me appreciate Clemmon's writing all the more!I would recommend this book highly to anyone who is interested in reading something a bit different, looking for a different perspective on loss and finding yourself in a world where there isn't a box for you to fit in. The vignettes of Thandie's life created all the more a sense of peeking into someone's personal diary.
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  • Anne Marie
    June 28, 2017
    Very interesting story about a young woman living in two different worlds due to her race. Nice to read about her found strength after her mother was gone. Thank you Autor Zinzi Clemmons and Goodreads First Reads Program for an advanced copy of this book.
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  • Ginny
    May 15, 2017
    This is a thoughtful and emotional rendition that deals with loss and identity. I was struck by this story/memoir as well as learning more about South Africa.
  • Chelsea
    May 24, 2017
    Very candid look inside the life of Zinzi Clemons and the loss of her Mother.
  • Read Voraciously
    June 20, 2017
    So simple yet so complex. wearevoracious.wordpress.com
  • Andrea Nast
    May 26, 2017
    DNF. Very young adult in a bad way, trying to be trendy with a character that "doesn't fit in" because of her mixed parents. Political agenda is a bit too obvious for me.
  • Liz
    June 21, 2017
    3.5 stars
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