What We Lose: A Novel

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A National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree
NBCC John Leonard First Book Prize Finalist
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction & the Aspen Words Literary Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, NPR, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, The Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, The Root, PasteBustleand Kirkus Reviews

“The debut novel of the year.” Vogue

“Like so many stories of the black diaspora, What We Lose is an examination of haunting. ” —Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker

“A richly volatile study of grief, wonderment and love.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“A startling, poignant debut.” The Atlantic

“Raw and ravishing, this novel pulses with vulnerability and shimmering anger.” —Nicole Dennis-Benn, O, the Oprah Magazine

“Stunning. . . . Powerfully moving and beautifully wrought, What We Lose reflects on family, love, loss, race, womanhood, and the places we feel home.” —Buzzfeed

“Remember this name: Zinzi Clemmons. Long may she thrill us with exquisite works like What We Lose. . . . The book is a remarkable journey.” —Essence

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, 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.

One of the New York Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, Marie Claire, Essence, Houston Chronicle, LA Daily News, Nylon, and Elle’s Books to Read This Summer
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About the author

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 elsewhere. She is a cofounder and former publisher of Apogee Journal and a contributing editor to Literary Hub. She has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and Dar al-Ma'mûn in Marrakech, Morocco. Clemmons lives in Los Angeles with her husband, where she teaches at The Colburn Conservatory and Occidental College.
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Reviews

3.1
11 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jul 11, 2017
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9780735221727
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / African American / General
Fiction / Contemporary Women
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Michael Chabon
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Winner of the Sophie Brody Medal • An NBCC Finalist for 2016 Award for Fiction • ALA Carnegie Medal Finalist for Excellence in Fiction • Wall Street Journal’s Best Novel of the Year • A New York Times Notable Book of the Year • A Washington Post Best Book of the Year • An NPR Best Book of the Year • A Slate Best Book of the Year • A Christian Science Monitor Top 15 Fiction Book of the Year • A New York Magazine Best Book of the Year • A San Francisco Chronicle Book of the Year • A Buzzfeed Best Book of the Year • A New York Post Best Book of the Year

iBooks Novel of the Year • An Amazon Editors' Top 20 Book of the Year • #1 Indie Next Pick • #1 Amazon Spotlight Pick • A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • A BookPage Top Fiction Pick of the Month • An Indie Next Bestseller

"This book is beautiful.” — A.O. Scott, New York Times Book Review, cover review

Following on the heels of his New York Times bestselling novel Telegraph Avenue, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon delivers another literary masterpiece: a novel of truth and lies, family legends, and existential adventure—and the forces that work to destroy us.

In 1989, fresh from the publication of his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to his mother’s home in Oakland, California, to visit his terminally ill grandfather. Tongue loosened by powerful painkillers, memory stirred by the imminence of death, Chabon’s grandfather shared recollections and told stories the younger man had never heard before, uncovering bits and pieces of a history long buried and forgotten. That dreamlike week of revelations forms the basis for the novel Moonglow, the latest feat of legerdemain from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon.

 Moonglow unfolds as the deathbed confession of a man the narrator refers to only as “my grandfather.” It is a tale of madness, of war and adventure, of sex and marriage and desire, of existential doubt and model rocketry, of the shining aspirations and demonic underpinnings of American technological accomplishment at midcentury, and, above all, of the destructive impact—and the creative power—of keeping secrets and telling lies. It is a portrait of the difficult but passionate love between the narrator’s grandfather and his grandmother, an enigmatic woman broken by her experience growing up in war-torn France. It is also a tour de force of speculative autobiography in which Chabon devises and reveals a secret history of his own imagination.

 From the Jewish slums of prewar South Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of New York’s Wallkill prison, from the heyday of the space program to the twilight of the “American Century,” the novel revisits an entire era through a single life and collapses a lifetime into a single week. A lie that tells the truth, a work of fictional nonfiction, an autobiography wrapped in a novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow is Chabon at his most moving and inventive.

Book 1
A stunning literary debut about coming back home again.

Twenty-eight-year-old protagonist Tommy Lee Tyson steps off the Greyhound bus in his hometown of Swamp Creek, Arkansas—a place he left when he was eighteen, vowing never to return. Yet fate and a Ph.D. in black studies force him back to his rural origins as he seeks to understand himself and the black community that produced him.

A cold, nonchalant father and an emotionally indifferent mother make his return, after a ten-year hiatus, practically unbearable, and the discovery of his baby sister's death and her burial in the backyard almost consumes him. His mother watches his agony when he discovers his sister's tombstone, but neither she nor other family members is willing to disclose the secret of her death. Only after being prodded incessantly does his older brother, Willie James, relent and provide Tommy Lee with enough knowledge to figure out exactly what happened and why.

Meanwhile, Tommy's seventy-year-old teacher—lying on her deathbed—asks him to remain in Swamp Creek and assume her position as the headmaster of the one-room schoolhouse. He refuses vehemently and she dies having bequeathed him her five thousand–book collection in the hopes that he will change his mind. Over the course of a one-week visit, riddled with tension, heartache, and revelation, Tommy Lee Tyson discovers truths about his family, his community, and his undeniable connection to rural Southern black folk and their ways.

"A thrilling literary debut...Daniel Black wields a powerful pen, a sharp eye, and muscular prose in giving us a memorable, even haunting story of the ties that bind." -- Michael Eric Dyson

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