Zadie Smith's picture

Zadie Smith

UK flag (b.1975)

Born in 1975 to a Jamaican mother and British father, Smith grew up in Willesden Green, North London, where most of the action in her debut novel takes place. Her family life was, and still is, extremely happy and she shares a close bond with her two brothers (now 16 and 22) as well as a good relationship with a half-sister and half brother, both in their mid-forties.

Although Smith began penning poems and short stories when she was only six, writing wasn't her only interest. From the age of five through to fifteen, she was particularly fond of tap-dancing and as a teenager enjoyed watching musicals and dreaming of a career in front of the camera. Surprising many of her teachers with her decision to apply to Cambridge University (a precocious talent, she was never outwardly ambitious at school, preferring the company of her friends rather then the lofty confines of the school library), Smith left North London to study English Literature.

Graduating with an English Degree from Cambridge and despite never having taken a creative writing class during this time (she feels a particular aversion to them), Smith wrote White Teeth during her senior year, reading drafts to friends and progressing through their encouragement. The first 100 pages of her manuscript earned Smith representation from the prestigious Andrew Wylie Agency and the novel was bought by Penguin following a frenzied auction. Although she intended to carve a career in journalism, the interest surrounding her debut novel set Smith up for a particularly public entrance into the literary world and she is now celebrated as one of Britain's most talented young novelists.

Zadie Smith is currently studying a postgraduate course on the Modern European Novel at Harvard University.

Genres: Literary Fiction
Anthologies edited
Non fiction
Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Best Book nominee (2000) : White Teeth
James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction Best Book winner (2000) : White Teeth
Whitbread Prize Best First Novel winner (2000) : White Teeth
Betty Trask Award Best First Novel winner (2001) : White Teeth
Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Best Book nominee (2003) : The Autograph Man
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing Best Novel nominee (2003) : The Autograph Man
The Man Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (2005) : On Beauty
Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Best Book winner (2006) : On Beauty
Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Writing Best Novel nominee (2006) : On Beauty
Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Best Book nominee (2013) : NW
The Man Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (2017) : Swing Time

Zadie Smith recommends
A Room with a View (1908)
E M Forster
"I loved it. My first intimation of the possibilities of fiction."
Dogwalker (2001)
Arthur Bradford
"One of the funniest, smartest, tallest writers at work in America today."
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (2003)
Z Z Packer
"The kind of brilliance for narrative that should make her peers envious and her readers very, very grateful."
Oblivion (2004)
David Foster Wallace
"A visionary, a craftsman, a comedian and as serious as it is possible to be without accidentally writing a religious text. He can do anything with a piece of prose, and it is a humbling experience to see him go to work on what has passed up till now as 'modern fiction'. He's so modern he's in a different time-space continuum from the rest of us. Goddamn him."
Remainder (2006)
Tom McCarthy
"One of the great English novels of the past ten years."
The Humorist (2012)
Russell Kane
"Russell Kane is a death defier, the sort of comedian who won't let a moment pass without filling it with laughter."
Bad Dreams (2017)
Tessa Hadley
"Few writers give me such consistent pleasure."
Homesick For Another World (2017)
Ottessa Moshfegh
"Razor-sharp short stories."
Fraternity (2020)
Benjamin Nugent
"If university is where we finally grow up, what role does the college campus play in creating the adult American man? In these dark, witty, and sharply written stories, Benjamin Nugent takes an unflinching look at that strange tradition, the all-male fraternity, which, in his gifted hands, begins to look like a very strange and insidious social experiment. Take a boy, transform him into a ‘bro,’ and then release into the wild…"
Luster (2020)
Raven Leilani
"Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring."

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