Join us to celebrate the release of Zinzi Clemmons's debut novel, What We Lose.
Told in visceral vignettes that draw from autofiction, online media, and encyclopedia, What We Lose is a thoughtful, poignant debut from a promising new voice. At the beginning of the novel we meet Thandi, a second generation South African American of mixed race growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs. Thandi is raised by her South African mother, yet in Thandi’s daily life she is immersed in the culture of “American Blacks . . . my precarious homeland.” “Because of my light skin and foreign roots,” Clemmons writes, “I was never fully accepted by any race.” This feeling, of being detached from a tribe, the loneliness of a perpetual outsider, follows her throughout her life. Her mother, a pillar of strength in their family, becomes ill while Thandi is at college, and eventually Thandi leaves school to care for her. After her mother’s death, Thandi struggles to anchor herself to a self-image and to relationships that seem increasingly tenuous to her. She falls in love and fashions an unexpected new family for herself, only to find herself uncomfortable in it-- an interloper again-- and still deeply disoriented by the loss of her mother. Clemmons intersperses the narrative with photography, text messages, excerpts from blogs and newspaper articles; the effect is by turns playful and haunting. The primary sources create intimate and sprawling connections between the reader, Thandi, and the novel’s larger questions: about the construct of race, injustice within social systems, the durability of love, and the ability to overcome grief. In this way What We Lose confronts the horrors and the legacy of Apartheid, and the tyranny of race in the personal and political realms. These meditations of What We Lose are deeply felt, not least because its themes are informed by its author’s personal experiences. The breadth and skill she demonstrates in this slim, pointed novel establish Zinzi Clemmons as a writer to watch.
Zinzi Clemmons was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father. She is a cofounder and former publisher of Apogee Journal, a contributing editor to Literary Hub, and deputy editor for Phoneme Media. Her writing has appeared in Zoetrope, The Paris Review Daily, Transition, and the Common. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction. Clemmons lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
Glory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn-based book club and online community that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature & sisterhood. Her book club has met with several award-winning authors including Margo Jefferson, Naomi Jackson, and Angela Flournoy. Well-Read Black Girl’s mission is to increase the visibility of Black women writers and initiate meaningful conversation with readers. Glory has worked as a creative strategist for over 10 years at start-ups and cultural institutions, including the New York Foundation for the Arts and The Webby Awards. Currently, she is the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter, where she helps writers use the platform to build community and find support for their creative endeavors. She is also the newest Housing Works Bookstore board member and volunteers with several other area organizations. Follow her on Instagram @wellreadblackgirl for book recommendations.
"Zinzi Clemmons's debut novel signals the emergence of a voice that refuses to be ignored." --Paul Beatty, Booker-winning author of The Sellout
"A piercingly beautiful first novel." --Danzy Senna, author of New People