What's your first memory as a child? One of my first memories is my first day of nursery school because it was on my birthday. I was four, in my shiny new uniform, new shoes, and a big smile on my face. Afterall, I was a big girl, and I was ready for the world, or to be more accurate, ready to take my small village by storm. And I remember my mother fussing with my hair before I had my photograph taken. She was always fussing with my hair. I spent a good portion of my childhood on her lap, or in a chair while she made sure my tiny curls were just right.

After reading Zinzi Clemmons' novel "What We Lose," I've found myself in a rather peculiar place. One, where I keep thinking about my past. You know you've read a great book when it stays with you for days (I read it over the weekend).

Sidenote: Guru thinks I have a problem with reminiscing about my childhood, but I really don't! I just remember it so well. It's unbelievable. I guess not growing up with a TV helps. I had an active imagination (I usually re-played my favorite adventures in my head at nights). Ok, I sound a bit nuts.

In this debut novel by Ms. Clemmons that affected me so, her main character struggles with her mother's death and her mixed race heritage. It's a riveting read. You'll lose yourself in this novel, but then, you'll find yourself again, and you'll be thankful for all you have.


What We Lose: A Novel

By:  Zinzi Clemmons

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.


New Books Tuesday