By: Aryanne Ferguson
Zadie Smith is a British author from London who is now a tenured professor in NYU‘s English department. Smith is most famous for her debut novel “White Teeth” (2003). I read this novel back in 2010 and had a great time with it, mostly because the London immigrant experience is so different from the American. The British slang, the 2nd generation immigrants who knew exactly what country they came from, that’s not something you can find in African-American literature. White Teeth follows two families- the patriarchs are WWII veterans and best friends, one a white Englishman, one Bangladeshi. Each marry very different wives, and their families take off in wild directions. The fun and tragedy of the novel lies in following those trajectories.
I’ve read another of Smith’s novels, “On Beauty” (2005). Although this novel is set in the US, it also follows a family of mixed cultures. The father is a white Englishman, the mother is African-American, the parents are atheists, then one of the kids becomes a Christian.
More than just reading good stories, reading Zadie Smith is also reading a meditation on the roles of culture, race, and religion in today’s society. Have you read any Zadie Smith?