What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons

What We Lose

 

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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.

 

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“American blacks were my precarious homeland – because of my light skin and foreign roots, I was never fully accepted by any race. Plus my family had money, and all the black kids in my town came from the poorer areas. I was friends with the kids who lived on my block and were in my honors classes – white kids. I was a strange in-betweener.”

What We Lose is a very telling coming of age story of a young woman that is of mixed race, and whose parents are from different continents which leads her to have identity issues. We get some insight on how hard Thandi worked to fit in amongst the different groups and to find her own voice. The death of her mother added another layer to this book as we got to see how she dealt with the grief.

I was extremely excited to read this book because of the early buzz, but I honestly felt let down. What We Lose had the potential to be excellent but the timeline jumped around too much for my liking. It is my belief that Clemmons had amazing talent and she will have a very successful writing career, but this book just didn’t do it for me.

 

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Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

Fitness Junkie

 

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When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin–the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin–her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don’t fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman’s tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can’t help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place?

A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture.

 

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“But to be divorced, over forty, without kids – that made Janey something different altogether.”

Any woman of a certain age that has been through something and then went on a journey to “find” herself will be able to relate to this book. There are parts that are lighthearted and completely over the top in a funny way and others that hit on the serious measures some women will go to for their happiness. All of those things make this an almost perfect chick lit book. My only issue is that the ending seemed rushed and I wanted more details about the progression of the characters. Overall, I predict this book will be a HUGE hit and a perfect companion for the beach this summer!!!

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Blackout: My 40 Years In The Music Business by Paul Porter

Blackout

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Since 1976, when the busing riots in Boston sent me scrambling into the radio station at WRBB at Northeastern University, the music industry has been my life. During my very first stint in radio, I was Paul “Pure Love” Porter from midnight to 3 a.m., and I fell in love with the medium of radio and the impact I had on my community. Radio introduced me to women. Radio introduced me to cocaine. Radio introduced me to some of my best friends. And radio killed some of them too. Blackout is a ride through my whirlwind of media jobs, working for and with some of the music industry’s most colorful, well-known and scandalous players. Blackout is an explosive look at the corruption that is running rampant in the industry. And Blackout is an inside account of how corporations erased Black identity from Black radio and mainstream music — and why I chose to fight back.

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“Through commercial rap, young boys were learning to view females as sex objects, while young girls were led to believe that to “get the guy” they had to dress like strippers and embrace titles such as “bitch” or “hoe.” Relationships, at least as they were modeled through mainstream rap, did not include romance, love, or courting. But it seemed as no one saw this as a problem.”

I was riding in the car from from dinner the other night when the song Ain’t No Fun by Snoop Dogg came on the radio, I was in a zone and rapping right along, and then I stopped because the above passage from Blackout crossed my mind. It would have been easy to remember the juicy parts of the book as far as who was and probably still is shady in the radio and music television business as Paul chronicled his career in the industry, but thinking about the impact and impression that modern music leaves on kids stuck with me the most. The above-referenced Snoop song was released when I was in high school and honestly, there was no reason why I should have known all of the lyrics. Music, just like books, tv and movies, can play a major role in how young people think they should behave, especially if parents are not explaining the lyrics to them.

“But after all the conscious talk, what’s the final message to listeners when black radio constantly plays music filled with negative messages and stereotypes?”

This quote is an important question raised by Porter. What message are we sending to our young people and to society in general when the songs played on the radio by black artists primarily talk about drugs and sex. After reading this book, it is evident that Paul Porter has earned the right to question what we promote because of his many years in the industry and it is my belief that others should follow his lead. Blackout is an insightful firsthand account about how black music has changed over the years and is a book that should be read by anyone that is interested in what goes on behind the scenes.

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