• Birth—October 27, 1975
• Where—Hampstead, England, UK
• Education—B.A., Cambridge University
• Awards—(see below)
• Currently—lives in New York City, New York, and London, England
Zadie Smith was born as Sadie Smith in the northwest London borough of Brent—a largely working-class area—to a Jamaican mother, Yvonne Bailey, and a British father, Harvey Smith. Her mother had grown up in Jamaica and emigrated to Britain in 1969. Zadie has a half-sister, a half-brother, and two younger brothers, one of whom is the rapper and stand-up comedian Doc Brown and the other is rapper Luc Skyz. Her parents divorced when she was a teenager.
As a child Smith was fond of tap dancing and as a teenager considered a musical theater career. When she was 14, she changed her name to "Zadie."
Smith attended Cambridge University where she earned money as a jazz singer and, at first, wanted to become a journalist. Despite those earlier ambitions, literature emerged as her principal interest. While an undergrad, she published a number of short stories in a collection of new student writing called The Mays Anthology. These attracted the attention of a publisher, who offered her a contract for her first novel. Smith decided to contact a literary agent and was taken on by A.P. Watt.
White Teeth was introduced to the publishing world in 1997—long before completion. The partial manuscript fueled an auction among different houses for the publishing rights, but it wasn't until her final year at Cambridge that she finished the novel. When published in 2000, White Teeth became an immediate bestseller, praised internationally and pocketing a number of awards. In 2002, Channel 4 adapted the novel for television.
In interviews Smith reported that the hype surrounding her first novel had caused her to suffer a short spell of writer's block. Nevertheless, her second novel, The Autograph Man, came out in 2002. It, too, achieved commercial success although the critical response was not as positive as it had been to White Teeth.
Following publication of The Autograph Man, Smith visited the United States as a 2002–2003 a Fellow at Harvard University. While there, she started work on a book of essays, some portions of which are included in a later essay collection titled Changing My Mind, published in 2009.
Her third novel, On Beauty came out in 2005. Set largely in and around Greater Boston, it attracted acclaim and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It won the 2006 Orange Prize.
Following a brief spell teaching fiction at Columbia University, Smith joined New York University as a tenured professor of fiction in 2010. That same year, The UK's Guardian newspaper asked Smith for her "10 rules for writing fiction." Among them, she offered up this:
Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand—but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.
During 2011, Smith served as the New Books editor at Harper's magazine, and in 2012, she published NW, her fourth novel, this one set in the Kilburn area of north-west London (the title refers to the area's postal code, NW6). NW was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Swing Time, Smith's fifth novel, was released in 2016, again to solid acclaim. The novel, a coming-of-age story, follows the fate of two girls of color who became fast friends through their mutual love of dance.
Smith met Nick Laird at Cambridge University, and the couple married in 2004. They have two children, Kathrine and Harvey, and are based in New York City and Queen's Park, London.
Awards and recognition
♦ White Teeth (2000): Whitbread First Novel Award, James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Commonwealth Writers’ First Book Award.
♦ The Autograph Man (2002): Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize
♦ On Beauty (2005): Commonwealth Writers’ Best Book Award, Orange Prize
♦ NW (2012): shortlisted for Ondaatje Prize and Women's Prize for Fiction
♦ General: Granta′s Best of Young British Novelists, 2003, 2013; Welt-Literaturpreis, 2016.
(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 10/31/2016.)
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