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Clem can make anybody, even his grumpy older sisters, smile with his jokes. But when his family receives news that his father has died in the infamous Port Chicago disaster, everything begins to fall apart. Clem's mother is forced to work long, tough hours as a maid for a wealthy White family. Soon Clem can barely recognize his home - and himself. Can he live up to his father's legacy?

In her award-winning trilogy, Lesa Cline-Ransome masterfully recreates mid-20th century America through the eyes of three boys: Langston, Lymon, and, now, Clem. Exploring the impact of the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, Jim Crow laws, and much more, Lesa's work manages at once to be both an intimate portrait of each boy and his family as well as a landscape of American history.

259 pages, Kindle Edition

First published August 3, 2021

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Lesa Cline-Ransome

38 books271 followers

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5 stars
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32 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 62 reviews
Profile Image for Darla.
3,506 reviews615 followers
July 20, 2021
Our trilogy is complete. Clemson Thurber is in the spotlight with Lymon and Langston in the 7th grade classroom with him. After Clemson's father dies in the Port Chicago disaster, there are changes at home. His mom has to find full-time work to support their family. Clem's older sisters rule the roost. Clem wonders how he can live up to the memory of his father. Especially since he is afraid to learn to swim. How can he follow in his father's footsteps and join the Navy if he is afraid of water? His worries about making his father proud along with the bullying in the classroom make Clem feel ill. Maybe Clem has to start looking at life and his father's legacy differently. A heart-to-heart with a family member might go a long way toward putting things in perspective. You will root for Clem and enjoy seeing Langston from his perspective.

Thank you to Holiday House and Edelweiss+ for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Amanda M (On The Middle Shelf).
315 reviews576 followers
October 14, 2021
I absolutely loved this companion to Finding Langston and Leaving Lymon. I listened to all 3 of these books on audio and the narration by Dion Graham is exquisite and definitely adds to the reading experience.

In comparison to the other 2 books in this companion series, this one didn't have as linear of a plot. It tended to wander a little from school, to time with his cousins, to family life, to time with his aunts in DC, to his interest in swimming, to time at the library, to his identity in relation to his father. There was quite a bit going on for such a short book.

No doubt this was still a 5 star read for me. The love I have for each of the boys in this series speaks volumes for Lisa Cline-Ransome's ability to write amazing characters in very short books. I'm still holding out hope the author will write a book centered on Errol because I would love to hear his story too.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and Netgalley for the advanced audio copy of Being Clem to review.
Profile Image for Christi Flaker.
460 reviews17 followers
July 16, 2021
Being Clem is the third book in a trilogy, it is the first book of said trilogy that I have read and it worked completely as a stand alone.

Being Clem is a great coming of age (up to middle school) story for young Clem starting with the loss of his father at Port Chicago. He lives in Chicago with his now widowed mother and two older sisters. We follow him from elementary to middle school. We see him find his interests, overcome his fears and start to learn more about the world than just being book smart.

I would recommend this to fans of middle grade reads.
Profile Image for Joy Kirr.
1,055 reviews131 followers
August 12, 2021
Not as strong (for me) as Finding Langston and Leaving Lymon, but I still fell in love with and felt for sweet Clem, who wanted to be like his father, but didn’t know how his father used to be before he died in the Port Chicago explosion in 1944 when he was nine.
Profile Image for Gina Johnson.
520 reviews13 followers
April 6, 2022
The 3rd book in the Finding Langston trilogy. This book was another touching, sweet, heart felt book that is a pleasure to read! I definitely think I’ll be adding this series to our home library eventually.
Profile Image for Almira.
576 reviews2 followers
January 13, 2022
First, I did not read the Kindle edition.
Two, as is typical of me, I saw the hard copy of this on the shelf in the New Book section in the children's area of the library - did not realize it was part of a trilogy.
Third, after all the EDI training I took from my library system, I found this book to be a real eye opener to so many issues I had not considered previously, particularly during the 1940's and 50's.
Fourth, I simply "fell in love" with Clem.

Now I must start with Finding Langston, and then on to Leaving Lymon.
Profile Image for Allie Kilduff.
216 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2022
This series really caught me by surprise with how much I enjoyed it. I think the author has a fantastic way of writing children; that can have you feeling so sympathetic to their wants and needs and the next minute laughing at a little one-liner only kids can come up with. Although, this was probably my least favorite of the 3 I think it ended beautifully and really gave me a sense of closure on all three boys.
Profile Image for Tammy.
523 reviews1 follower
March 8, 2022
I really liked Clem’s coming of age story and how he grew to find his voice, his courage, and his identity. Strong family bonds help Clem’s family through the tragedy of losing his father in the Port Chicago disaster. The aftermath of rebuilding their lives, and finding hope & love through the grief, was touching.
Profile Image for (Katie) Paperbacks.
518 reviews135 followers
April 1, 2023
I liked this book, but definitely preferred the first two the most in the series. I did like how Clem learned ro face his fears and also seeing his perspective with his friendship with Langston from the first book.
Profile Image for Scott Kelly.
244 reviews35 followers
December 3, 2022
Once in a while you read a story or a series that isn't just good, but it feels important. This series is one of those.
Upon completion of Being Clem, I'd finished the Finding Langston trilogy and I feel like I'd just experienced something important in the African American story. Each story had something to say and something teach the reader about the Black community and their experiences in America.
I'm happy I've experienced this trilogy and sad to finish it as well. I wish the best for Langston, Lymon, and Clem.
Profile Image for Antoniette.
223 reviews16 followers
November 24, 2021
Thank you NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for allowing me access to the audio book version of this book.

This story centers around Clem, an African-American boy growing up in Chicago with his mother and two sisters. Throughout the book, you get to witness as Clem faces typical coming-of-age struggles. All along the way, you will find yourself rooting for Clem to make the right decisions and come out on top. I found Clem to be very likeable, and I especially enjoyed his relationship with his sisters. Their back and forth banter came through as genuine and made me chuckle a couple of times.

The author has managed to skillfully intertwine pieces of Black History and the struggles of African-Americans throughout the story in a way that adds to the narrative and gives the reader more to learn about. From the teacher standpoint, I can easily see this book being used to spark discussion and/or research about various topics such as the Great Migration and the treatment of Blacks in the military. Her Author's Note is a great place to begin to learn more.

Although this book is the third book of a trilogy, it does well as a stand-alone as well. However, having gotten to meet Langston and Lymon in this book, I'm now eager to learn their stories by reading the other books in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will be recommending it to students and teachers every chance I get.

That said, I'd like to add a few things about the audio recording. The narrator has a great voice and is very easy to listen to, but his inflections often didn't seem quite right and that caused me to become distracted many times. Also, there are some fixes (at least three) that need to be made to the editing because a phrase was repeated, a line of dialogue was missed, etc. I hope these can be corrected before the audio book is released to the public.
Profile Image for Melissa.
2,385 reviews25 followers
June 15, 2022
Clem is the youngest of three children and the only boy. Growing up in 1940’s Chicago his world is dominated by two domineering older sisters and a mother he feels responsible for cheering up. His father has died, far away in San Francisco, while serving his country, in the criminally tragic Port Chicago disaster. But Clem is smart and sweet and determined to find a way to live up to his father’s name.

This is one of those books that I never wanted to put down. Each of the characters felt so fully realized and I was interested in every one of them. It was like meeting up with your favorite people and hearing about their day. Clem’s trips to visit relatives, his struggle to learn to swim and his grappling with somehow having become part of a posse of schoolyard bullies all wove together with his warm and complex home life.
Profile Image for Josephine Sorrell.
1,578 reviews30 followers
December 6, 2021
Being Clem is the third book and my favorite in the Cline-Ransome’s Finding Langston trilogy.

Small but oh so smart, Clemson Thurber Jr. has acquired resilience through dealing with his two older teenage sisters. Like most siblings they barely tolerate their annoying little brother.

Their mother is raising three children by herself because her husband's body is floating at the bottom of The Pacific Ocean as Clem states. He was killed in San Francisco’s 1944 Port Chicago Disaster where 320 sailors, most of them Black, were loading ammunition onto ships.

Because of Chicago’s employment discrimination, Clem’s widowed mother works as a maid to an unrelenting white family despite her college education. Clem believes his mother wants him to be like his Daddy and follow him into the Navy. Problem, Clem has an irrational fear of water. The water makes him think of his father’s death.

Now a seventh grader, Clem befriends a music-loving school bully—the eponymous protagonist of Leaving Lymon (2020) Then newcomer, Langston who immediately gets dubbed, “Country Boy” enters the picture. This character is Langston of Finding Langston (2018). Langston is now Lymon’s new bullying target,

Clem has been raised to know right from wrong, so he begins to doubt the ethics of tormenting nice kids. One day after a fight over a book and the discovery of their mutual love of the library, Clem and Langston find a lasting friendship.

This novel addresses tough situations with care, including parental grief and depression, the threat of eviction, domestic abuse, the emotional and physical abuse of children, the impact of racism, and negotiating problematic friendships.

As I turned the last page I missed Clem and his family.

The history in this book is so rich with names such as…
Louis Armstrong
Satchel Paige
Edgar Bergen’s puppet Charlie McCarthy
Lena Horne
Eddie Rochester
Sugar Ray robinson

Even though this is third in the trilogy, Being Clem can be read as a stand alone without compromising the story.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,022 reviews19 followers
July 7, 2021
Thankful to Penguin and Edelweiss for an advanced E-ARC of this title.

Being Clem is a companion book to Finding Langston and Leaving Lemon. All three historical fiction books are shorter in length, but deep in content providing much to digest and consider while reading.

Clem and his family are suddenly faced with the tragic death of his father in the Port Chicago disaster. It devastates his mother and she is temporarily paralyzed with grief. Upon realizing she is not going to receive financial compensation from the government for her loss, she tries to find work in the field for which she is college educated, as a secretary, but when she is not able to secure a secretarial position, she has no alternative if she is going to feed her children, and takes a job as a maid in a white household. Her job provides Clem an opportunity for swimming lessons, and while he had always hoped to be a swimmer like his father, Clem finds his fear of the water is stronger than his desire to learn to swim. The swimming theme continues throughout the story, and I couldn't help cheering him on, hoping he would overcome his anxiety around the water.

The book takes Clem and his two older sisters on adventures to visit family in Washington DC (more educational than fun) and Chicago (100% fun!), explores the dynamics of Clem being advanced a year in school due to his academic ability and how his size and naivete make him a target for bullies/older kids, broaches the challenging topic of an abusive spouse/parent, and highlights the struggles a family endures while dealing with unexpected loss. It also gives the reader a snapshot of life in the 1950s for Black families.

I really enjoyed Clem's story and how the two other characters, Lymon and Langston, were intertwined with Clem. I will definite be adding to my school library and sharing it with my students.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Danielle.
882 reviews
February 14, 2022
"Just because I'm scared doesn't mean I can't feel brave too."

This third and final installment in the Finding Langston trilogy was incredibly powerful and touching. When we first meet Clem, he's a friend of Lymon's, bullying Langston and generally causing trouble at school. In Clem's story, we learn why he's friends with Lymon and Errol. As time goes on, Clem learns to stand up for himself and become who he is rather than be who his friends say he should be.

We meet Clem in this story reeling from the loss of his father in the Port Chicago disaster. His mother is clearly depressed but she knows she has to keep going in order to keep Clem and his sisters afloat. Clem is friends with Errol, the neighbor kid, only because their moms are friends and Errol is right there. Clem's biggest dream is joining the Navy, walking in his father's footsteps. When Clem starts his first round of swimming lessons, it's then that he realizes he's scared of the water. Later, Clem discovers the high school swim team and begins to think more critically about his goals rather than just what's convenient. Clem becomes good friends with Langston (yay!) and spends a lot of time at the library with Langston.

I loved Clem's story and hearing what his life was like. Learning to live without his father and getting to spend time with his family in Washington, DC and other parts of the country speaks to an experience I don't read a lot about during the 1940s. I appreciated this story and I'm actually quite sad that this little trilogy is over. This is fantastic historical fiction for elementary and middle grade readers.

TW: panic attacks, bullying, death of a parent, grief
Profile Image for Amy.
402 reviews8 followers
July 21, 2021
I really enjoyed this story and the voice actor who read it. It is, apparently, part of a trilogy and this taste of the series was enough to make me want to look for the others. It definitely worked as a stand alone novel.

I would have liked a little more history about the Port Chicago disaster, so appreciated the author’s note at the end. But, regardless, I cheered for Clem and his family and my heart hurt thinking of all of their disappointments and sadness. Clem reminded me so much of many of my students, and I think this will be a great addition to a class library.

Besides the dearth of info about the deadly tragedy that propels this novel, the other thing it’s missing is depth. I felt like lots of topics were mentioned (domestic violence, bullying, racism) they were skimmed over in exchange for more characterization of Clem. I would have liked to see them addressed and examined a bit more.
The nice thing about this novel is that I can imagine additional stories about many nor the other characters. I’d love to hear more about Clem’s sisters and mom and his friends and neighbors. The addition of a “mentor” at the end made me curious about whether, perhaps, it was leading to a spin-off.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for an ALC of the book in exchange for my honest opinions.
Profile Image for Wina.
793 reviews
April 7, 2022
Historical fiction for ages 8-12, I feel the upper end of those ages are a good fit for this book. Clem goes from 9-11 or 12 years old in this book, and the emotion, growth, and historical references may be harder for the 3rd and 4th graders to grasp. It is part of a trilogy, but the books are companions rather than sequential. I did not read the other two, and had no issues. I enjoyed this book very much, and it is pretty low-key, without a lot of action or happenings. It was just engrossing and I always wanted to keep reading. There is grief, and how this family handled it before kids could just go talk to a counselor (or adults--but they wouldn't have been able to afford it), family dynamics, fear, friendships and lack thereof, bullying, being yourself/growing up, and racism. The racism in the book is mostly systemic, and explained well. The acts of racism are usually microaggressions, such as calling the maid "Cece", rather than Mrs. Thurber. These are explained, too, so that the young reader will understand the problem. Most of the historical references are not explained, so children may want to look up some of the names that I knew without a problem. (Lena Horn, Joe Lewis, etc.) This book has a feel-good ending, and I would have loved a Dickensian epilogue explaining what happened in their futures. Excellent author's note.
833 reviews2 followers
January 30, 2022
Many parts of this book are 5 star. Clem is a character you fall in love with and the narrative from his viewpoint is 5 star. I enjoyed seeing Lymon and Langston from Clem’s viewpoint. With that said- it is still a stand alone book. I do think the reader gets more out of it reading this book last. The reason I’m rating it a 3 star instead of five is I was so disappointed that the Port Chicago incident was not explored- at all. There is a mention of it in the back matter, but I don’t accept that a historical fiction book uses back matter only to help children learn history. Most kids won’t read that part and history won’t stick with them if they don’t see the characters experience it. I wonder why the author did not make Clem’s father one of the Port Chicago 50? That way this civil rights incident would have been explored and the character could have still grown to find his place in the world. Students need to read Port Chicago 50 first or know about this incident to get the most from this story. Missed opportunity to bring a historical event to light that has been ignored far too long.
Profile Image for Lizanne Johnson.
1,270 reviews12 followers
July 26, 2021
When I read Being Clem, I did not realize this was book 3 in the Finding Langston series. I loved Finding Langston, but somehow missed Leaving Lymon (am already taking steps to rectify that). My omission did not matter one whit. Being Clem can certainly stand alone on its own merits. Dionne Graham’s narration of the audiobook is spot on. I could listen to his smooth, velvety voice all day. I easily differentiated among the characters. Graham’s range of emotions is amazing. Clem grows as a character, and Graham’s voice reflects that growth.

Clem is nine when his father dies in the Port Chicago explosion. His coming of age over the next four years reflects the time: school bullying, racism, and bias. His relationships with his mom, sisters, friends, and extended family felt so real. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will purchase both the audio and a hard copy for my school library.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Riah.
316 reviews
January 27, 2022
I kept trying to think about how to describe this book, and I couldn't come up with anything definitive... finally this morning I realized that it is because I've never read another book quite like it. Lesa Cline-Ransome has a beautiful work of art here - rich, deep, nuanced, and integral. I loved Clem and his deep introspections that he shared with the reader. I loved the relationships and the world and Cline-Ransome has built, contextualized into a history that feels alive and present. While this book is written for youth, it's prose style and multi-level readability makes it ideal for classrooms or for adult reading. And did you want to learn more about Langston? You'll get that too! Just fantastic! I can't wait to read more by this author and I'm so glad my friend recommended it to me! Read it. You won't be disappointed!

PS- the audiobook is beautifully done, too with perfect voice to match the story.

ETA: I read this book first without realizing it is part of a series. It worked beautifully as a stand-alone book, AND I cannot wait to read the other two books.
Profile Image for Christine.
145 reviews
March 7, 2022
"Just because I am scared doesn't mean I can't feel brave too"
Being Clem by Lesa Cline-Ransom is the third and final book in the Finding Langston trilogy,set in the 1940's in Chicago. Though it can be read as a stand alone, it will mean more if the stories of Lymon and Langston are read as well. The story felt a little disjointed at times but the last quarter flowed much better and the author's note detailing the historical events tied it all together and enhanced the story's impact. I would recommend these for older middle grade as the subject matter can be a bit heavy but it is filled with many points of discussion and wonderful lessons to be learned about how we let our circumstances define us and how we all have worth if we just find someone willing to want to do the work to help us see it.
I listened to the audio book, which I often don't enjoy but the narrator, Dion Graham really brought the characters to life and I would recommend it. Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for a chance to listen to this one!
Profile Image for Sherri.
286 reviews21 followers
March 12, 2022
Being Clem is a companion/3rd book in the Finding Langston trilogy. After reading the first book I wanted to jump to Clem instead of Lymon. Clem's character surprised me. I thought I had an idea who he was but having a book of his own has deepen his character for me and the more I sit on it, the more he grows.

My reading of the trilogy started with the first book, Finding Langston. It is a great opener into the world these three contemporary books are set in. There are author notes of each book explaining the time line/the event that our fictionalized characters are living through. With Clem, his father died during the Port Chicago disaster in July 1944. I wish the history from the author's note was somehow explained to our main character, so the reader (me) who knows nothing of this historical tragedy would understand this overlooked event of American history better.

Both Leaving Lymon and Being Clem have made me go on a research hunt, a non-fiction tbr rabbit hole.

Finding Langston✩★✩
Leaving Lymon✩★✩★✩
Being Clem ✩★✩★
Profile Image for Ayanna Anderson.
96 reviews
January 1, 2022
Beautiful and bittersweet. I’m sad I will no longer learn of the lives of these three great young man, but immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to get to know them. This is a terrific trilogy for black young boys who can engagingly learn about their historical/cultural past, and any young boy learning to live life. The author said it best in her note: “In each of these journeys into the past, I am faced time and again, with the stories of people who in their quest for fairness, respect, and equality, were instead faced with injustice and discrimination. Yet the obstacles they encountered at every turn produced not just anger and frustration, rebellion and hurt, but more often determination, resilience, perseverance, creativity, joy, and love. Each of these books represents pieces of an often overlooked history of blacks in this country, and reminds me that through every hurt and pain Blacks have experienced, the strength of family and community remained intact.” Love.
Profile Image for Robin.
407 reviews5 followers
July 17, 2021
Thanks to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for a free ALC of this book!

Clem's father has just died in the Port Chicago explosion of 1944. Now his mother must find work. She is an educated Black woman, but the only job she can find is working long hours as a maid for a white family. Clem is terrified of water, but he desperately wants to be a swimmer like his father was. While the family tries to navigate their new life without Clem's dad, Clem also has to figure out how to deal with changing friendships. While I liked this book, I wanted more. I loved the author's notes about the Port Chicago disaster at the end of the book, but I wish more facts would have been included in the text. Still, this book and the rest of the series would be great additions to any middle grade or junior high classroom.

Profile Image for Lollie George.
117 reviews1 follower
December 2, 2021
I love Lesa Cline Ransome's writing. It is so believable to the time and the place. The description of how each family member deals with the death of the father in this story, is tangible. The mother's pain is especially visceral.
Cline Ransome intimately describes the unpredictability of classroom friendships for Clem and his male classmates. You can see the wheels turning in Clem's head as he tries to balance right and wrong with getting along with the other boys his age; the bully , the new country boy, and the classmate from his neighborhood.
Swimming is a large part of the story. I had a hard time understanding the meaning of the cover of the book until I got into the story and understood his fear of swimming.
I loved the adults in the story who took the extra step to be a friend to Clem.
Profile Image for BiblioBrandie.
1,037 reviews27 followers
October 11, 2021
Lisa Cline-Ransome's books are so well researched, her characters are so well developed, and her writing is just wonderful. I am such a fan and found this third installment to the Finding Langston series nothing less than perfect. I love her look at bullying and I remember a friend saying to me that she didn't want her own child to be bullied but she also didn't want them to be the bully or the quiet bystander. Cline-Ransome explores all of these possibilities with this trilogy. This book would be a great introduction to the the Port Chicago Disaster and the way that Black servicemen were treated. Also could tie in the court case on mutiny and Thurgood Marshall, the Great Migration, and the Harlem Renaissance. I hope that Cline-Ransome has another book up her sleeve about Erroll.
Profile Image for Leigh.
404 reviews4 followers
March 18, 2021
I received an e-ARC of this title courtesy of the publisher through SLJ's Middle Grade Magic event.

I was excited to see this title having read and enjoyed Finding Langton. I somehow missed the second book in this trilogy, but didn't feel lost, and will definitely go looking for LEAVING LYMON now too.

I love the way this trilogy is put together, with each installment's telling the story of one boy in a group of friends. It add's a lot of depth to a series of events, and series of characters, that seemed to be put together just fine in one book. Reading this book, though, I realized how much more the story there is and hope other readers enjoy it as much as I did.
1,282 reviews10 followers
December 3, 2021
I’m not ready to be done living with Clem, Langston and Lymon!! Maybe we can convince the author to pick up their stories when they are in high school. This was a wonderful addition to the series. Langston’s story is my favorite, but Clem’s story comes in a close second. The author weaves in the “historical” part of the fiction so effortlessly and with such skill that I always end up side tracked and researching the events she writes about. These characters feel so real that I found myself saying “these are fictional characters” a couple different times while reading this book. I was fully invested. I will continue to recommend these books to readers.
Profile Image for Kristen.
833 reviews20 followers
May 18, 2022
Cried happy tears when I finished the trilogy that ended with Being Clem. I think I loved all three of these books equally, and I highly recommend them to every library and classroom. I told one of our teachers about Finding Langston and he read it to his 4th/5th grade class this year. I loved how each of the boys - Langston, Lymon and Clem - had their own story that leads them up to the time they were all in middle school together. You see each of them grow and change, and you know that two of the three at least are going to be alright, and you really really hope for that third boy. Being Clem was a beautiful story of loss, recovery, family, and overcoming fears. Two thumbs all the way up!
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