In her novel, Clemmons tells the story of Thandi, a young African American woman coming of age. 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. 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.
Clemmons was raised in Philadelphia by a South African mother and an American father. In 2011, she co-founded the literary journal Apogee, and she currently serves as associate editor at the Believer and as contributing editor to Literary Hub. She was a 2017 National Book Award 5 Under 35 Honoree. Clemmons teaches writing at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The keynote event begins at 7:30 pm in Hanes Auditorium of the Salem Elberson Fine Arts Center located at 500 East Salem Avenue. The event is free and open to the public. A book sale and signing will follow.
Clemmons’ book talk kicks off the annual Bookmarks Festival Saturday, September 8, from 10 am to 5:30 pm in downtown Winston-Salem.