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Famous Like Me > Writer > S > Zadie Smith

Profile of Zadie Smith on Famous Like Me

Name: Zadie Smith  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 27th October 1975
Place of Birth: Brent, London, England, UK
Profession: Writer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith (born October 27, 1975) is a British novelist. To date she has written three novels, mainly set in London. In the early 2000s, Smith has been celebrated as one of Britain's most talented young authors.


Childhood and 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, 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 and 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 writing (see Short stories). A publisher sensed her talent and offered her a contract for publishing her (as yet unwritten) first novel. Zadie Smith decided to contact a literary agent and has since been represented by A.P. Watt before completing even the first chapter of this 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 being successful. An unusual amount of attention was paid to the still unfinished debut 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).

She next worked on her second novel, The Autograph Man. In interviews she reported that the hype surrounding her first novel had caused her to suffer a short spell of writer's block. Nevertheless, her second novel was published in 2002 and was a success, but the critical response was not as unanimously positive as it had been to 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.

She recently completed her third novel, On Beauty, which was published in September 2005. 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, To a Fault, and a novel, Utterly Monkey, early in 2005. 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


  • White Teeth (2000)

Her first novel White Teeth is built around three families - the British and Jamaican 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 (2005)

Her third novel, On Beauty, was published in September 2005. A short article in the Guardian has described it as a transatlantic comic saga. It was shortlisted for the 2005 Man Booker Prize on September 8, 2005. She gave a preview reading of her third novel at this year's Oxford Literary Festival in 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 Pure. In: The New Republic, 3rd November 2003.

An article written by Zadie Smith on Franz Kafka, for a 2005 reissue of whose The Trial she also wrote a foreword.


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 and 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."

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Zadie Smith