Zadie Smith

Shantel Edwards (University of Birmingham); Revised By: Jonathan P. A. Sell (Universidad de Alcala de Henares)
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The publication of White Teeth in 2000 made British author Zadie Smith an immediate superstar and the face of an emerging genre of British literature that has been termed “multicultural fiction”, a term that is usually applied to fiction that shares the general traits of being set in London, featuring non-white characters and is often written by non-white authors. Smith’s talent was discovered during her time at Cambridge and her youth, beauty, mixed- race, working-class background, prestigious education and rumours of a £250,000 advance based on 80 pages of her first novel, coalesced to ensure her debut was one of the most anticipated releases of the new millennium. Over the ensuing decades, her literary work has come to define and re-define both British literature, and, in the case of her literary criticism, the ways in which we talk about it. To date Smith has published six novels, two collections of short stories, another two of essays, one play, numerous uncollected stories and articles, and, together with poet and husband Nick Laird, two stories for children. She has also acted as co-editor of other collections of short stories and essays. Her work has been nominated for and awarded numerous literary prizes and she has twice been included on Granta’s list of most influential British novelists under the age of forty. She has taught at Harvard, Columbia and, from 2010-2019 held a tenured professorship in creative writing at New York University. The COVID pandemic returned her to her native London, where she continues to write to generally universal acclaim.

Many of Smith’s childhood influences and experiences inform her fiction, whether that be her interest in jazz and tap dancing, most apparent in her most recent novel Swing Time, or her home in multicultural, north-west London, which forms the backdrop to many of her novels. Threads and themes that recur throughout Smith’s fictional works include a preoccupation with time and memory, an exploration of race in society and how it intersects with class and gender, and larger meditations on human relationships, particularly the formation and failures of connection. It has been acknowledged that one of Smith’s real talents as a writer lies in her ear for dialogue and ability to construct a multiplicity of perspectives that read true, particularly providing a space for non-white voices within mainstream literature.

A proud Londoner, Smith was born and raised in Willesden, north-west London as Sadie Smith by her Jamaican mother Yvonne, who emigrated to England in 1969, and English father Harvey. Smith changed her name to Zadie as teenager to make her “sound more exotic” (Anon 2008). A focus on characters of mixed race, interracial relationships and the wider implications of race within British society are recurrent themes in Smith’s work. Smith has claimed that being raised within a mixed-race family “makes you think a bit harder about inheritance and what’s passed on from generation to generation”, and at the same time forced her to confront the reality of racism in the UK where her 16-year-old brother can be stopped by the police “just walking down the street” on the suspicion that he might have “robbed a house” or have “weed on him” (Merritt 2000). This tension between the sense of freedom that accompanies the increased hybridity and diversity of British society and the enduring negative attitudes towards ethnic minorities that persist is evident in her debut novel White Teeth, as well as in much of her work that followed.

White Teeth is a sprawling realist novel that owes as much to E. M. Forster as it does to Salman Rushdie – though Rushdie is most often invoked as the reference point for the text. The novel’s interweaving narratives span from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of twentieth. It charts the stories of two families, Samad and Alsana Iqbal -- who have emigrated to London from former British colony of Bangladesh -- and interracial couple Archie Jones (English) and Clara Bowden (Jamaican). Smith explores their shared histories in Britain as they settle and have children, as well as the larger shared history of Britain and its colonies, reckoning with both the historical origins and contemporary realities of multiculturalism. The novel is split into sections that focus in turn on each character’s narrative, transporting the reader to the Second World War, the Indian revolution and colonial Jamaica. As the novel moves through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to focus on the narratives of Irie Jones and Millat and Magid Iqbal, Smith brings her portrait of modern, multicultural London up to date and showcases the search for identity and space within Britain for the second diasporic generation.

White Teeth charts the history of empire, racism and the struggle to belong. The teeth of the title represent old fashioned racist attitudes – “when I was in the Congo, the only way to identify the nigger was by the whiteness of his teeth” (Smith 2001, p.171) – as well as human universality and the rootedness of Britain’s non-white population. Molly Thompson (2005) argues that the teeth metaphor symbolises both roots, the entrenchment of multi-racialism within British society, and “routes”, the history of empire. Race is a predominant theme of the novel and through characterisation Smith simultaneously mocks and destabilises racial stereotypes. Chance and fate are also continuous themes throughout the novel; Archie’s decision to commit suicide is based on a coin toss, he meets his future wife Clara at a party he attends on a whim, and twins Millat and Magid break their noses at the same time in different continents. Later in the novel Smith alludes to this running theme by naming the animal rights activist group Josh Chalfen joins FATE: Fighting Animal Torture and Exploitation.

Whilst White Teeth received widespread critical acclaim, was nominated for numerous literary awards and adapted for television in 2002, it was not universally lauded. The most noted critic of the novel was James Wood, who coined the term “hysterical realism” to place Smith’s novel within a style that he felt was particular to the turn of the century and a malaise shared by the novels of David Foster-Wallace and Salman Rushdie. He argued that White Teeth was a great example of a type of novel that seems “to want to abolish stillness, as if ashamed of silence” and where “stories and sub-stories sprout on every page, as these novels continually flourish their glamorous congestion” (Wood 2000). For Wood, Smith’s novel is overwhelmed by its many improbable sub-plots and undermined by attempts to be clever and funny at the expense of plausible characters: “the conventions of realism are not being abolished but, on the contrary, exhausted, and overworked. Whilst Wood’s criticism is harsh, the sharpest critic of the novel was Smith herself. A review of the novel written by Smith under a pseudonym in The Daily Telegraph described it as “the literary equivalent of a hyperactive, ginger-haired tap-dancing 10-year-old (Moss 2000).

White Teeth signalled the start of Smith’s wary relationship with the media, often produced by her representation within the press. Smith’s working-class upbringing and mixed-race family were emphasised in much of the media attention surrounding her debut – “She’s young, black, British – and the first publishing sensation of the millennium” (Merritt 2000) – her background seeming to symbolise a new phase of multicultural meritocracy within British society and politics, where race was becoming increasing irrelevant. The attention garnered by her racial background and the readiness with which she was positioned as a spokesperson for multi-ethnic Britain was something Smith was uncomfortable with from the beginning. This led to reviewers of White Teeth labelling her manner “spiky” (Lyall 2000) as she attempted to resist the reduction of the novel’s appeal, as well as her own literary celebrity, to a preoccupation with racial difference. This resistance to easy categorisation within the media and to being racialised in a way that her white contemporaries would not be subject to has been a consistent element of her interactions with the media since her debut:

She is still angry at a Guardian interview that described her as “morose, self-conscious and resentful”, and wherein the writer took personal issue with her change of hairstyle, and the fact that she no longer resembled the sexy, bespectacled young intellectual pictured on the hardback book jacket. (O’Hagan 2002)

Smith’s resistance to being presented as a spokesperson for multi-ethnic Britain and reduced to objectified or essentialised characteristics is part of a larger debate within the political and social moment of the early half of the new millennium, which would later embroil her contemporaries such as Monica Ali and Hari Kunzru.

Smith seemed keen to move away from this subject area in her second novel The Autograph Man, published in 2002. Following White Teeth’s popular and critical success, it was received with mixed reviews, many critics measuring it against the success of White Teeth and finding it lacking. The lead protagonist Alex-Li Tandem is of Chinese, Jewish and British heritage and the distance between Smith’s biography and that of her main character seems to be a deliberate attempt to free herself from the burden of representation that very quickly became attached to her through White Teeth because of the mixed-race character Irie Jones, whose background was similar to Smith’s own. The setting of the novel in a fictitious London suburb seemed to move away from the urban, multicultural environment of White Teeth that had come to define her public persona. A large amount of Smith’s appeal derived from the idea that she was opening a window into Britain’s multi-ethnic population and perhaps there is an element of the middling critical response to this novel that is a reaction to the lack of this sense of multicultural insight in The Autograph Man.

The larger themes of the novel, its meditation on fame and celebrity, appear to reflect on the novelist’s own experiences of the early years of her fame. The Autograph Man follows Alex, an overweight, socially-withdrawn mixed-race man, whose best friend was his father. At the insistence of his wife, Li-Jin Tandem takes Alex to a wrestling match in his teenage years with two of his friends’ sons to get him out of the house more. During the wrestling match his father dies whilst he is obtaining his first autograph, and this moment catalyses an obsession with autograph hunting that leads to an intense preoccupation with obscure and reclusive 1940s Hollywood starlet Kitty Alexander. The novel explores the contemporary obsession with fame and celebrity, Jewish mysticism, obsession and relationships, as well as the nature of grief and coming to terms with loss.

In the three years between the publication of The Autograph Man and Smith’s third novel, On Beauty, she spent time as a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, model for the New England campus setting of On Beauty, the most traditional, assured and critically revered of Smith’s novels. The first line of the novel is adapted from E. M. Forster’s Howards End, Smith’s “hommage” to the writer “to whom all my fiction is indebted” (Smith 2005, acknowledgments), and her rootedness in the tradition of English literature is to the fore in this work. Published in 2005 and winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006, it follows two warring academic families, the Kippses and the Belseys, exploring familiar themes such as race, identity, relationships and class, as well as more abstract ideas about art, aesthetics, beauty and academia.

At the heart of the novel is Howard Belsey, a white English professor, his African American wife Kiki Simmonds and their mixed-race children. Howard is in the midst of an academic war of words and positions with Caribbean professor Monty Kipps, who at the start of the novel is based in London but soon takes a job at Howard’s own institution of Wellington. The feud entangles their families in various ways; their wives become friends, Howard’s eldest son Jerome falls in love with Monty’s daughter Victoria and Howard eventually sleeps with her. As the title suggests, meditations on beauty form a continuous thread throughout the novel. Monty and Howard are art history professors and through their characterisation Smith questions the validity of professionalised aesthetic expertise: these are the characters that most often fail to recognise or appreciate the beauty on which they are the supposed authorities.

Smith also questions contemporary standards of beauty through Howard’s infidelities. Kiki is described as a beautiful woman, whose “ethnic advantage” has ensured she looks “twenty years his junior” (p. 14). Whereas she was once “thrown over his shoulder like a light roll of carpet […] nowadays [she was] a solid two hundred and fifty pounds” (p. 14). When confronted about his liaison with Victoria Kipps, whose thinness feels pointed to Kiki, Howard throws back “I married a slim black woman, actually” as justification for his affair; she was no longer a slim black woman and this “breach of contract” (p. 207) legitimates his infidelity. Through these interactions, Smith explores the specific burden of expectation placed upon women to adhere to beauty standards whilst highlighting the endemic double standard that allows, and to a certain extent attempts to justify, middle- aged men to let themselves go but still solicit sexual relationships with young women.

On Beauty examines the place of blackness within academia and the white spaces of privilege from which it is often absent. Kiki is isolated within the elite campus town where her difference and visibility is startling and Levi doesn’t have the ability to envision the university as a place for black people, having only ever experienced white students. For both the only available options with which to recognise and interact with blackness within their environment is with their Haitian cleaners or through hip hop. Smith uses the campus setting to explore the ways in which class and race intersect.

In between novels three and four, Smith released a book of her essays entitled Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, published in 2009. Wide ranging in scope, the essays encompass everything from literary and film criticism, political commentary, journalism and personal essays. The essays “Speaking in Tongues” and “Two Paths for the Novel” have been particularly lauded: the former for its eloquence when conceptualising hybridity and multiplicity, and the latter for its innovative approach to literary criticism. The essay collection provided an insight into the diverse interests of the author, as well as more personal insight into her life, writing, family background and thoughts on race.

Smith’s fourth novel, NW, was published in 2012 and is her most experimental work to date. The novel is split into sections which each follow a different character, written in a different form. The first section of the novel, numbered abstractly, considers the character Leah Hanwell and plays with the presentation of speech and sound of prose:

I am the sole
I am the sole author. (Smith, 2012, p. 3)

Smith also experiments with typography in this section of the novel, using words to form the image of a mouth (p. 27), a tree (p. 24) and the epitaph on a gravestone (p. 61). The middle section of the novel, entitled NW6 and the most conventionally written section, follows Felix, a reformed drug addict as he visits his father in the estate he grew up in and his wealthy, but destitute, older lover, later becoming a victim of knife crime. The final section of the novel follows Keisha/Natalie and is written in numbered subsections that vary in length, some no longer than a sentence. On Beauty showcased an assured writer secure in the realist form, NW a confident writer experimenting with and pushing at the traditional boundaries of the literary form that had become her wheelhouse.

The predominant focus of the novel is the friendship between Leah Hanwell (white) and Keisha Blake (black), who grew up together on a working-class estate in Caldwell, north-west London. Although both women grow up in the same place, their lives veer off in different directions. Leah becomes involved with the “Camden lot” as a teenager, experimenting with drugs, getting into university by the skin of her teeth and choosing to explore her identity rather than find a career. She works for a low-level charity and only makes it as far as Willesden with her black French husband Michel, finding herself “surprised by their own conventionality” (p. 21) in marrying.

She spends much of the novel ostensibly trying to get pregnant, but in reality coming to terms with her underlying resistance to having children. In opposition to this Keisha, the product of a family who belong to a religious cult, substitutes a sense of her own identity for academic and career success. As she grows further away from her identity – even changing her name to Natalie – and infiltrates circles of wealth and high social class, the two friends grow further apart, the literal geographies of London representing their increasing emotional distance.

Writing about race is familiar territory for Smith, but NW takes this further to explore the ways in which race and class intersect and inform each other much more explicitly. The narratives explore the gender expectations placed upon women, which delimit their freedom, and the damage this inflicts on their sense of self, as well as their relationships with others. As with her other novels, NW displays a preoccupation with relationships, truth and honesty, with what connects and divides us. NW was adapted by the BBC in 2016.

After a four-year break, during which she became a tenured professor in the creative writing department at New York University, the news of Swing Time’s release in early 2016 was greeted with enthusiasm and high expectations. Published at the end of 2016 and long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, Swing Time’s narrative follows two mixed race women from girlhood who, as in NW, grow up side by side on an estate in London; the Guardian review of the novel termed it “a best friend bildungsroman” (Selasi 2016). Whilst more traditional in form than NW, Swing Time experiments with the passing of time through chapters that flit between the present and the past.

Here Smith uses first person narration for the first time and refrains from ever naming the main protagonist. The interweaving narrative details the trajectory of their friendship through dance; a local dance class brings them into contact when they are young, a love of dance sustains their often fraught friendship, and thwarted ambitions fracture it.

Tracey has a talent for dance that the flat-footed narrator doesn’t share, her talent instead residing in a deep love of the art form, as well as a passion for jazz and old musicals. The narrator’s mother, an autodidact who eventually becomes a politician, attempts to instil in her a black consciousness, whereas little attention is paid to Tracey’s racial identity by her white mother. Tracey’s home life is difficult -- she is raised by her single mother who overcompensates for her absent, and occasionally violent, father by allowing her free reign of the Argos catalogue. The novel traces their once aligned, but ultimately divergent paths. Tracey goes to stage school, has a brief career on the West End but ends up a single mother of three, living in the same flat in the same estate she grew up in. The narrator, unsure of her own ambitions or desire, goes to university, gets a job in a media company and becomes a personal assistant to Aimee, a Madonna-like pop superstar. Her time with Aimee takes her to New York and Africa, where one of Aimee’s latest projects is opening a school for girls. During her time in Africa, Aimee falls in love with a local teacher and ends up spontaneously adopting a local girl.

Whilst the novel explores many themes familiar to Smith’s work, it tackles them more substantively than ever before. Time here, a perennial concern of Smith’s, is reflective and indicative of the narrator looking back in a contemplative sense, rather than an experimentation as in NW. The novel explores race, its continuing significance in British society, and problematizes the notion of a return to a cultural homeland. Smith examines the weight of ambition, both when it is thwarted and when it is lacking. Swing Time looks at the breakdown of the narrator’s parents’ marriage and the role that ambition, or its lack, has to play in its demise. Through the character of Aimee, Smith examines the fetishisation of Africa and the contemporary phenomenon of famous and wealthy white women taking African daughters to satiate their own narcissistic desires. As with NW, female friendships are at the heart of the novel, and are often the only place that genuine connection occurs.

Swing Time feels the most personal of Smith’s novels, perhaps in part because it is her first foray into first- person narration or because, on the surface, it seems to be the story that most closely reflects her own. Like her characters, she grew up on a London estate, her parents divorced when she was a teenager, she had two half siblings from her father’s previous marriage, her mother pursued education as she was growing up and she has written previously on her love of dance (Smith 2016). Whilst Smith has been clear from the offset of her career that critics are often too eager to read her work as autobiography, the reoccurrence of certain themes and elements within her work suggest their proximity to the author. North London is almost always a presence in her work, as well as all the class struggles that are epitomised in the geography of London. Interracial relationships and race itself, particularly characters of mixed-race origin, almost always feature in her work. In White Teeth, Irie ponders what it means to be mixed race in Britain, while struggling to find herself within its history, context and standards of beauty or attempting a spiritual return to a Jamaican homeland that doesn’t exist. In On Beauty Smith presents mixed-race characters that are exploring their racial identity through American culture, flawed activism and hip hop. In Swing Time the mixed-race narrator explores her own racial identity through visits to Africa, literal returns to a cultural “homeland”, and her own relationship to it as it fluctuates between essentialism, voyeurism and genuine instances of spiritual connection. In her non-fiction, Smith also ruminates on the idea of mixed-race identity, what it means and represents, as well as its potential:

You have no choice but to cross borders and speak in tongues. That’s how you get from your mother to your father, from talking to one set of folks who think you’re not black enough to another who figure you insufficiently white. It’s the kind of town where the wise man says “I” cautiously because I feels like too straight and singular a phoneme to represent the true multiplicity of his experience (Smith, 2009, p.138).

In Changing My Mind Smith explicates the significance of its title, referring to the fact that the consequence of being published at a young age means that your “writing grows with you -- and in public” (p. 2), alongside a developing sense of self and identity. Smith’s trajectory from a reluctantly famous author to a cultural figure who frequently comments on society, politics and culture is traceable throughout her fiction. The author of White Teeth was uneasy with her own success and increasingly public identity. Sixteen years later, Swing Time-era Smith is palpably more comfortable with her place within the literary and cultural field, as well as within her own identity as a black British writer who is at home in America: “I don’t feel so isolated. I see radical black thinkers like Ta-Nehisi Coates not just being celebrated but universally listened to, respected […] that has been a revelation, to be in this eclectic African-American world, in which I am a guest, but a happy one” (Elmhirst 2016, p. 211).

Swing Time was followed in 2019 by Smith’s first collection of short stories, Grand Union; of the nineteen pieces, eleven were new while the remaining eight had been published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review or Granta. In some ways this marked a return to her creative origins in the writing of short fiction: it was her story “Mrs. Begum's Son and the Private Tutor”, written as an undergraduate and published in the 1997 issue of The Mays Literary Anthology, which first attracted the attention of literary agents. Like her novels, Smith’s shorter pieces have a strong autobiographical element and touch on a similar range of issues; like her essays, they fuse feeling and thought and worry at relationships between the aesthetic and politics. Grand Union was a finalist in the 2020 edition of The Short Story Prize.

A newer departure for Smith was her 2021 play The Wife of Willesden, commissioned by the London Borough of Brent and a rapid sell-out at the Kiln Theatre. Based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales, the main elements are preserved although the protagonist Alvita’s tale is relocated to seventeenth-century Jamaica, where at the Queen’s behest a man convicted of rape is instructed to discover what women really want. Suggestively, the same tale had been adapted a few years earlier in Patience Agbabi’s Chaucer re-write, Telling Tales (2014). Both Agbabi, of Nigerian extraction, and Smith (Stage Voices) worked on translations of Chaucer while at university. Thus, the Wife of Bath from the very early days of the English literary tradition is recovered and revitalized as a locus for the interrogation of issues relating to gender and race. In 2022, Smith’s play earned her the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for “Most Promising Playwright”.      

White Teeth was appropriated by media pundits and most critics to act as the literary manifesto of multicultural “Cool Britannia”, while its author was pigeon-holed into an identity defined by the sort of reductive racial and gender parameters which she, like so many others throughout history, is too intelligent and self-aware to accept and, perhaps more unusually, too honest to exploit. “I know exactly who I am, where I come from” (Smith in Allardice 2023), and it is a “who” and a “where” that exist in blithe freedom of the sort of restricting determinisms mocked in her first novel (Sell 2006), too often paraded by the gloomier cohort of postcolonial and/or multicultural writers and, it might be argued, marringly reproduced in Smith’s sometimes schematic characterization and plotting. In fact, Smith has confessed that of all her characters she most resembles Alex-Li Tandem of The Autograph Man, not because of the British-Jewish-Chinese identity which slots him into a publicly-scripted identity premised on de-individualizing and accidental categories, but because of the essential, particularizing components of his “weird, nerdy, obsessive, melancholy” nature, which is barely known to himself. The only public identity with which Smith would willingly, albeit modestly and insecurely (see Eagleton 2020, pp.227-8), align herself is that of writer, and her latest novel The Fraud (2023) inserts her squarely in the tradition of the English novel with which she maintains a love-hate relationship, with an emphasis on the former. Despite her disparaging remarks regarding a worn-out “lyric realism” and despite her own attempts in NW to resist by “gleefully taking apart” (Smith 2008) novel-writing conventions -- what she has referred to as her enslavement within “an ancient tradition” --, Zadie Smith is “an English novelist” (2009), a calling and a self-identification celebrated in a work in which nineteenth-century novelist Harrison Ainsworth is a leading character and Charles Dickens has a walk-on part, while the third-person, past tense returns after the first-person departure of Swing Time.   

The Fraud is typically expansive, writing itself into eight volumes, travelling between nineteenth-century London and the slave uprisings in Jamaica, which, as observed at a distance by mysterious, mixed-race, abolitionist Eliza Touchet, provides the continuo to the unfolding events of the main plot. A self-professed historical novel, it is based on the lives of Ainsworth, now fallen on hard times, and of his housekeeper-lover, Touchet, while the fraud of the title refers to the Tichborne Claimant, an East Ender living in Australia called Arthur Orton, who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, long-lost heir to a fortune. The Tichborne trial (1871-1874) became a cause célèbre, with the frenzied Victorian public backing not just Orton but his star witness, Andrew Bogle, a black slave from Jamaica. In one sense the novel may be read through the prism of contemporary populism, and Smith herself has pointed out parallels with Donald Trump (Allardice 2023). But the issue which Smith herself identifies as energising The Fraud is the “monstrosity” of slavery and the way people were able to live “on top of it”; and here Smith finds an analogy with the environmental crisis, which, though widely deplored, doesn’t stop people climbing aboard aeroplanes. In this sense, The Fraud offers a corrective to Victorian fiction, in which the rib of slavery, which sustained generations of novel-readers as they took sips at their tea, is almost imperceptible. The Fraud revisits the nineteenth-century novel to take the wraps off that monstrosity and place it centre-stage, while, of course, never renouncing Smith’s good humour and warmth of spirit. The novel has achieved rapid critical acclaim for its characters, its wit, its ear for language, its curiosity and its vibrant recreation of Victorian London: some critics rate it as Smith’s best piece of work.  

“Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three, precarious elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial way; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two” (“Foreword”). This is hallmark Smith: experience is neatly if reductively schematized into three compartments, the thought is not especially profound, but the modest, self-effacing “for me” reveals the human vulnerably at odds with the public statement-making and the need to be “appropriate” (Smith in Fallon, “Zadie Smith”) required of a reluctant literary celebrity who finds joy and satisfaction in the private act of writing, the company of friends, and reading in the great tradition of novels among which her own may one day be placed, almost despite herself. Creditably, Smith appears to shun the hype which has beset her since the publication of White Teeth, much as she rejects the stereotypes she could so easily have profited from in a society more interested in package than substance; creditably, too, her subsequent literary output demonstrates beyond all doubt that she is no one-hit wonder, although it is still too early to offer a measured assessment of her true literary worth. While the critics admire her for her Midas touch, Smith worries in the open about the emperor’s new clothes. Yet, given her track record to date and her reassuringly genuine sense of calling, it is reasonable to suppose that her best is yet to come.

Works Cited:

Allardice, Lisa. 2023. “Zadie Smith: “I get in trouble when I talk about the state of the nation”. The Guardian, 26th August, Accessed 21st September 2023.
Anon. 2008. “Zadie Smith”. The Guardian, 22nd July, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Eagleton, Mary 2020. “Moving between Politics and Aesthetics in Zadie Smith’s Shorter Forms”, English, vol. 69, no. 266, pp. 224-243.
Elmhirst, Sophie. 2016. “Zadie”. The Gentlewoman (Autumn and Winter), no. 14.
Fallon, Claire, 2017. “Zadie Smith Thinks We Should ‘Retain the Right to Be Wrong’”, Huffpost, 19th September,¼3_ccsession_a5096e7e-f86f-481a-9dae-7fb9d9105241&inline¼false&lang¼en-us. Accessed 22 September 2023.
Freeman, John (ed.). 2013. Granta 123: Best of Young British Novelists 4. Granta Publications.
Jack, Ian (ed.). 2003. Granta 81: Best of Young British Novelists 3. Granta Publications.
Lyall, Sarah. 2000. “A Good Start”, The New York Times, 30th April, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Merritt, Stephanie. 2000. “She’s young, black and British – and the first publishing sensation of the Millennium”. The Guardian, 16 January, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Moss, Stephen. 2000. “White Teeth by Zadie Smith”. The Guardian, 26 January, Accessed 31st March 2017.
O’Hagan, Sean. 2002. “Zadie Bites Back”. The Guardian, 25 August, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Selasi, Taiye. 2016. “Swing Time by Zadie Smith review – a classic story of betterment”. The Guardian, 13th November, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Sell, Jonathan P. A. Sell. 2006. “Chance and Gesture in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and The Autograph Man: A Model for Multicultural Identity?” Journal of Commonwealth Literature vol. 41, no. 3, pp. 27-44.
Smith, Zadie. 2001. White Teeth. Penguin.
Smith, Zadie. 2005. On Beauty. Hamish Hamilton.
Smith, Zadie. 2008. “Two Paths for the Novel”, New York Review, 20th November, Accessed 22nd September 2023.
Smith, Zadie. 2009. “That Crafty Feeling”. Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, pp. 28-40. Hamish Hamilton.
Smith, Zadie. 2012. NW. Hamish Hamilton.
Smith, Zadie. 2016. “What Beyoncé taught me”. The Guardian, 29th October, Accessed 31st March 2017.
Smith, Zadie. 2018. Foreword. Feel Free. Penguin.
Stage Voices. 2021. Accessed 23rd September 2023.
Thompson, Molly. 2005. “‘Happy Multicultural Land?’ The Implications of an ‘excess of belonging’ in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth”, in Write Black, Write British: From Post Colonial to Black British Literature, ed. Kadija Sesay. Hansib Publications.
Wood, James. 2000. “Human, All Too Inhuman”. New Republic, 24th July, Accessed 31st March 2017.

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Citation: Edwards, Shantel, Jonathan P. A. Sell. "Zadie Smith". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 01 September 2017; last revised 28 September 2023. [, accessed 02 December 2023.]

5065 Zadie Smith 1 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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