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What We Lose

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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  7,152 ratings  ·  989 reviews
From 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 country

Raised 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,
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Hardcover, 213 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Viking
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Jessica You wouldn't happen to be trying to get other people to do a homework assignment for you, would you?
La La The storyline and what the book is about are in the Goodreads summary above. To order books you can click on the affiliate links underneath the…moreThe storyline and what the book is about are in the Goodreads summary above. To order books you can click on the affiliate links underneath the summary.(less)

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Emily May
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-lit, 2017
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. Even while you’re out in public, feeling fine and free, inside you cannot shake the feeling of rootlessness. Others may envy you, but this masks the fact that at night, there is nowhere safe for you, no place to call your own.
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Elyse Walters
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Sometimes there is no reason to write a review.....( so it feels) - to me.

I mean if you finished a book - that you are somewhat neutral about - appreciate it - aware it’s thought provoking - has depth - deals with loss of a mother - and a father who emotionally distances himself - add struggling with racial/ cultural identity for a young African-American.....
AND....
you notice over 500 people on Goodreads have ‘already’ written a review —
AND.....
You look.....
.....at a few reviews and discover..
...more
Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘


Albeit smart, intimate and well-written, these qualities aren't why I'll remember this novel : no, I'll remember What We Lose for its relatable depiction of grief, no matter how often I've wanted to stop reading. In this area of essays and important novels, when the representation of minorities in fiction is still so criminally inexistent, I love that this book exists, but looking back, that's not what I'll recall. The intense sense of dread I feel when I read about the loss of a parent, that I
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Darkowaa
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone serious about self care, black psyche
Shelves: arc
!!! Book blog review: https://africanbookaddict.com/2017/07...
Laden with meditative, intimate and at times unsettling vignettes, What We Lose will leave you in a pensive state. Thandi – the heroine of this novel, is the only child of her mother (a coloured South African) and father (a light skinned African American) who is very aware of her privileges & multicultural background. Readers follow Thandi on her journey from childhood to adulthood as she navigates what it means to be a black woma
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Latanya (CraftyScribbles)
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those Seeking Their Own Path; Melaninated Souls in need of warmth
Throughout my life, coming-of-age novels peppered themselves onto bookshelves whenever I ventured. In these novels, heartbreak, love, loss, and joys scattered their footprints, asking me to grasp the main character's journey by finding similarity.

Most of the time, they failed as they offered two hundred and more pages of a life I witnessed on television and movie matinees. Bottled in blonde ponytails and bouncy curl drenched in Prell shampoo, any hardships described on the page felt sweeter than
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
I jumped on this one for a buddy read in the Newest Literary Fiction group.

This was a quick read but a confusing one. I feel like the description led me to expect a pretty straight forward novel about a South African childhood and loss. Instead it reads like a braided essay in longform, a memoir of sorts, with attempts to pull in other information. But it also feels unfinished, with several more revisions needed to really make the transitions work, to bring the emotion in balance with the event
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Vanessa
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very contemporary feeling book that tackles modern day themes but also about the past and how both have a habit of interesecting each other.

Thandi tries to break the mould of living and honouring the past of her South African background and paving a new future. This book tackles race, tradition and it's implications in melding it with her life in America. Sometimes she is torn between the two worlds. I feel like the main issues that are tackled here are concerning race and grieving and she tr
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Lori
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cancer health disparities: black women and white women are equally likely to have breast cancer. Death from breast cancer is 42 percent more likely for black women than for white women.
Liz
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
When I read something like this my first thought is that it’s trying way too hard. Some chapters were a single line. Some were a picture or a chart. Some chapters were news articles of actual events in South Africa. Some were beautiful, some were bizarre, and some were just deliberately crude. I’m not saying that these things in themselves aren’t interesting or valuable, I’m just saying that they don’t belong together within a single 200-page book, let alone one with the word “NOVEL” printed bol ...more
Erin
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: october-2017
What We Lose is a weird little novel. Writing in the form of stream of consciousness. What We Lose is a different kind of book about loss and grief. I must admit I had trouble connecting with this book, maybe it was the stream of consciousness writing style or maybe it was the fact that the chapters moved back and forth through time. One chapter her mother's alive and in the very next chapter she's dead and then she's alive again. It was annoying and stopped me from fully connecting with the cha ...more
Thomas
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-fiction
I wanted more from this slim novel, though I enjoyed what I did read. In What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons writes about a young woman of mixed race whose mother passes away. In concise chapters, she explores her protagonist's grieving process as well as her experiences relatetd to race, apartheid in South Africa, marriage, family, and more. The personal and political intersect in this work of fiction, just as they do in real life.

My own grandmother passed away last year, so perhaps I started this boo
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Book Riot Community
I’ve written a full review of this novel elsewhere, but here I’d like to just say that anyone who has ever known loss should read this book. Clemmons captures grief so incredibly well on the page that it feels like your own pain put into words. Her experimental formatting and the gorgeous language she uses help, certainly, but this book really, more than anything else, is about losing a parent and the way the loss can unhinge a person even while their life continues to move and spin forward with ...more
Lark Benobi
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This novel felt uneven and thin and overwrought to me, all at once. I found myself resenting the novel for trying to make me feel things that the prose couldn't deliver. The story followed predictable patterns--there was no surprise. The writing in some parts had the feel of a kludgy autobiography--for instance the careful way the author explains what "colored" means in South Africa. The author's tendency to over-explain at times felt like an annoying slip in diction, from intimate to formal an ...more
Rachel León
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(4.5 stars, rounded up)

This novel is so beautiful and smart. I totally loved it. Here's my full review: https://chireviewofbooks.com/2017/07/...
Ifeyinwa
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Friends, I wonder if my extremely high expectations and vague understanding of this novel set me up for an anticlimactic and frustrating reading experience. I truly wanted to love this book. I wanted (and still want) this book to succeed.

Through a series of vignettes, Thandi describes and processes the death of her mother, what it means to lose someone (both familial and romantic) and her relationship to her mother's country- South Africa. A series of vignettes that presents itself as a novel c
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Jennifer Tam
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Started and finished this book in a couple of hours - it is a beautiful story about love and loss and grief in a very interesting format that I very much enjoyed - can’t wait to see what else comes from this author
Kasa Cotugno
Heartfelt account of a young woman's coming to self realization and dealing with her mother's death, a mother who was young and still had much in front of her, this reminded me at times of Cheryl Strayed's Wild. Clemmons fully expresses her loss in short vignettes, with splashes of surprising candor. They say everyone has at least one book in them based on experience. Let's hope there will be more from this young author.
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars (generously)

I know this is not in following the group, but I must say that I am disappointed in this book. I know it has gotten a very high rating, but for me it is really just middle of the road.

I did like the vignettes method of her writing. I thought this read quite like a memoir, which I enjoyed. However, it felt to me like the author did a lot of ruminating. I felt like I was her confidant, although I really did not know her. I was her stand-in for a best friend, whether I wanted to
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Olive (abookolive)
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-fic
See my review on my booktube channel: https://youtu.be/Bp6MNHxXitc
Lizzie (Littlehux) Huxley-Jones
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
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Joachim Stoop
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: out-in-2017
2,5/5

Sometimes I really don't get the buzz, promo and high ratings surrounding a book. I do my very best, but I just don't see it. So, debut novel of the year? Really?

If a novel is that fragmented, essayistic and autobiographical it needs to come across more fierce, engaging, poetic, insightful and original.

Nope, in somewhat the same genre/topic read Adichie, Coates, Teju Cole, Another Brooklyn, Behold the dreamers instead. Or just dust of the Baldwin on your bookshelf
Sophie
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
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. Even while you’re out in public, feeling fine and free, inside you cannot shake the feeling of rootlessness. Others may envy you, but this masks the fact that at night, there is nowhere safe for you, no place to call your own.
...more
Jessica
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The latest in a string of high-profile minimalist "novel-in-vignettes," this is the kind of novel that feels like nonfiction. But in the best kind of way. You forget that you're reading about a character, because there's so little emphasis on plot and so much on internal development, that it genuinely feels like reading a diary or a set of stream-of-consciousness essays. More to come.
La La
3 stars on the blog.

I know you are all saying, "Huh?" How can it be five stars here and three stars on the blog? Well, this book has gotten quite a few one star ratings based solely on the fact that it is about African American culture and race relations; one reviewer said she is sick of all the "trendy" POC titles. Yeah, can you believe that? So, therefore, despite all of the mechanical problems I had with this book, it is getting five Goodreads stars from me because of its message and the insi
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Meike
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book didn’t hurt, but it also didn’t do anything for me. A fragmented narrative in the style of a memoir about a young woman named Thandi who loses her mother to breast cancer and gives birth to her first child, this story is ripped apart by centrifugal forces – so duck down, reader, Clemmons’ free-flying ideas and ruminations might hit you in the head, and instead of an epiphany, you might just get a headache. Let’s look at some of the topics Clemmons meditates on:

- South Africa
Thandi’s mo
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Cody | codysbookshelf
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is the coming of age of Thandi, a woman who was raised in Pennsylvania with roots in South Africa. Never quite feeling like she belongs, Thandi is in search of love. Not in the romantic comedy sense; she is desperate to belong. She is a light-skinned black woman, therefore she doesn’t feel at home with black or white people. Having been raised in the States but born in Africa, she feels she doesn’t belong anywhere.

A brutally honest rumination on race, sex, grief, and family, this short nov
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Andre
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Splendidly different. Is it a Novel? Vignettes? Memoir? Meditation on loss? Or as author Zinzi Clemmons calls it in her acknowledgments, a “weird little book.“ I say it is all of the above and the sum total adds up to a wonderful debut. This novel is one that defies categorization and that adds to its charm and it is structured quite differently than one normally finds in works defined as fiction. The book initially reads like a memoir, which is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact I believe it’ ...more
Sara
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is gorgeous and readable and smart. It's totally outside the box, but not ever in a jarring or frustrating way. It's brief (just over 200 pages), which I love, but poignant. I don't want to say too much about the story itself because I think reading it without preconceptions makes for a remarkably engaging experience.
Anna | hayinas7
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I just completed What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons and I don’t know how I feel about it. I'm not saying it’s good, bad or that it doesn’t deserve a review. I just….hmmm. I need a minute to reflect.
Lorraine
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Once in a while I come across books which touch my inner core. Books about people and things which are an integral part of my make-up.

In "What we lose" Zinzi Clemmons covered situations -racial, sexist, political and social- which I have thought that I was too black, too poor, too loud, too soft, to care about. To think of and to dwell on how much they've touched, affected, wounded me. I was too landless, too township, too coconut to think about those factors and their impact on my black woman l
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Zinzi Clemmons was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father. A graduate of Brown and Columbia, her writing has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, The Paris Review Daily, Transition, and The Common.

She is a co-founder and former publisher of Apogee Journal, a contributing editor to Literary Hub, and deputy editor for Phoneme Media.

She has received fellowships from the
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“I've amazed myself with how well I've learned to live around her absence. This void is my constant companion, no matter what I do. Nothing will fill it, and it will never go away.” 13 likes
“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. Even while you're out in public, feeling fine and free, inside you cannot shake the feeling of rootlessness. Others may even envy you, but this masks the fact that at night, there is nowhere safe for you, no place to call your own.” 11 likes
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