Zadie Smith

From Academic Kids

Zadie Smith (born October 27, 1975) is a British novelist. To date she has written two novels both mainly set in London. In the last few years she has been celebrated as one of Britain’s most talented young authors.



Childhood & Background

Zadie Smith was born Sadie Smith (she changed her name when she was 14 reportedly to give herself a different, exotic touch) in the northwest London borough of Brent, a multicultural, mainly working-class area, to a black Jamaican mother and a white English father. Her mother grew up in Jamaica and emigrated to England in 1969. It was her father's second marriage. She has a half-sister and a half-brother and two younger brothers. Her parents divorced when Zadie was a teenager.

From childhood on she developed various interests and abilities: as a child she was fond of tap-dancing; as a teenager she considered a career as an actor in a musical; and as a student she earned money as a jazz singer and wanted to become a journalist. However, reading and writing always played a major part in her life.

Studies & Career

After being educated at local state schools Zadie Smith enrolled in King's College, Cambridge to study English literature. While attending college she published a few short stories in a collection of student's writing (see Short Stories). A publisher sensed her talent and offered her a contract for publishing a yet-to-be-written novel. Zadie Smith decided to contact a literary agent and has since been represented by the internationally successful Wylie Agency even before completing the first chapter of her first novel.

White Teeth was introduced to the publishing market in 1997, long before it was completed. On the basis of a partial script an auction among different publishers for the rights started with Hamish Hamilton Ltd. being successful. An unusual amount of attention was paid to as yet uncompleted début novel.

Smith completed White Teeth during the final year of her studies. When published in 2000 the novel became a bestseller immediately. It was praised internationally and won a number of prizes (see #Novels).

In the coming years she worked on her second novel The Autograph Man (see Novels). In interviews she reported that the hype around her first novel had increased the pressure which resulted in a short writing blockage. Nevertheless, her second novel was published in 2002 and was a success, but this time critics did not praise the novel in unison as they had with White Teeth.

After the publication of The Autograph Man Smith left London and was a 2002–2003 Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University ( She started work on a book of essays The Morality of the Novel in which she considers a selection of 20th-century writers through the lens of moral philosophy.

Recently she has started to write her third novel On Beauty, which is scheduled to be published in autumn 2005 (see Novels). Additionally, she is working with her husband Nick Laird on a musical on the life of Franz Kafka. (

Private Life

Zadie Smith met fellow student Nick Laird at Cambridge University; they married in 2004. Nick Laird published a collection of poems called To a Fault (;sessionid=ZKGG0GZXUJKIFQFIQMFSM5WAVCBQ0JVC?xml=/arts/2005/01/23/bolaird.xml&sSheet=/arts/2005/01/23/bomain.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=116141) early in 2005. He is currently working on a novel named Utterly Monkey. Zadie Smith and Nick Laird live in North London.


Short Stories

  • Mirrored Box. In: The May Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge Short Stories 1995
  • The Newspaper Man. In: The May Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge Short Stories 1996
  • Mrs. Begum's Son and the Private Tutor ( In: The May Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge Short Stories 1997
  • Picnic, Lightning ( In: The May Anthology of Oxford and Cambridge Short Stories 1997
  • Martha, Martha ( In: Granta 81: Best of Young British Novelists 2003


Her first novel White Teeth is built around three families - the British & Jamiacan Joneses, the Bangladeshi Iqbals and the Jewish Catholic Chalfens - and presents several races, religions, generations and locations. It has won the Whitbread First Novel Award 2000, the Guardian First Book Award, the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. In 2002 the story of White Teeth was made into a short TV series for Channel 4.

  • The Autograph Man (2002)

Her second novel, The Autograph Man, was published in 2002. The main character of the second novel is a Jewish/Chinese Londoner named Alex-Li Tandem, who buys and sells autographs for a living. Smith's second novel won the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize 2003.

  • On Beauty (autumn 2005)

Currently, Zadie Smith is reported to be working on her third novel On Beauty. A short article in the Guardian (,6109,1381913,00.html) has described it as a transatlantic comic saga. It is scheduled to be published in September 2005.
She is to give a preview reading of her third novel at this year's Oxford Literary Festival ( on the 17th April 2005.


  • The Zen of Eminem ( In: Vibe, 2002.

An article on the rap star Eminem for the American magazine on urban music and culture Vibe.

  • The Limited Circle is Pur ( In: The New Republic, 3rd November 2003.

An article written by Zadie Smith on Franz Kafka.


Zadie Smith was a passionate reader from childhood on. Her reading included works by Vladimir Nabokov, Charles Dickens, Franz Kafka, George Eliot, Raymond Carver, E.M. Forster, etc.



In an interview with (, Smith says about her presentation of culture & community in White Teeth: "I just wanted to show that there are communities that function well. There's sadness for the way tradition is fading away but I wanted to show people making an effort to understand each other, despite their cultural differences."

External links

See also


Squires, Claire White Teeth - A Reader's Guide. Continuum International Publishing Group, New York & London. 2002de:Zadie Smith it:Zadie Smith pl:Zadie Smith


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