WHAT WE LOSE by Zinzi Clemmons
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WHAT WE LOSE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this inventive debut novel, a young woman writes her way out of grief.

As a “strange in-betweener” with two mixed-race parents—a South African mother and an American father—Thandi must navigate the majority-white suburbs of Philadelphia, where she's "often mistaken for Hispanic or Asian, sometimes Jewish." "But you're not, like, a real black person," she's told as a young student, confirming her feeling that she was "never fully accepted by any race." When her mother dies of cancer, Thandi must come to terms with the loss—including her strongest link to family in Johannesburg. Caught between two continents—between American blackness and South Africa's legacy of apartheid—she sets out to discover what makes life worth living after tragedy hits. In the process, she produces an honest, propulsive account of grief, interrogating the relationship among death, sex, motherhood, and culture. Written in compact episodes that collage autofiction with '90s rap lyrics, hand-drawn graphs, blog entries, and photographs, the novel pushes restlessly against its own boundaries—like Thandi herself. Clemmons manages to write with economy without ever making her book feel small, and with humor and frankness, so the novel is not overly steeped in grief. This is a big, brainy drama told by a fearless, funny young woman—part philosophy, part sociology, and part ghost story. “My theory is that loneliness creates the feeling of haunting,” Thandi confesses during a rough patch. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, prepare for Thandi's voice to follow you from room to room long after you put this book away.

A compelling exploration of race, migration, and womanhood in contemporary America.

Pub Date: July 11th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2171-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2017




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