Zadie Smith - Biography

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is a British author who’s known for her contributive work for racial awareness and societal betterment. Through her tongue in cheek humor antics, savvy writing style and snappy dialogues, she has become an important part of the literary world. Smith is recognized for her phenomenal novel (also her first one): “White Teeth” that got released in 2000.

Zadie Smith had a native Jamaican mother and an English father. She was born in 1975 in North London (the same area where Andrea Levy was born). She finished her high school and college in London, and graduated in 1998 from Cambridge University. She is a one of a kind writer because of her only two published novels. Both these novels were well reviewed and led her to receive an array of rewards and well versed reputation.

“White Teeth” was the winner of two literary awards, while “The Autograph Man” penetrated the British literature scene in post 2000 time period. The first novel was something more on the lines of fame and popularity. Usually, writers are not too keen on discussing their first novels or books, since they never have a lot of luck associated with the early phase work.

In this context, we can say that Zadie Smith had god gifted talents for writing good quality content. The half-Jamaican authoress wrote “White Teeth” at Cambridge, during her undergraduate years. This is a rarely known fact, which fans of Smith don’t normally get to know. Zadie doesn’t have a lot of good childhood memories to relate. Her parents mutually filed for a divorce when she was only 14, which made her doubt the very strand of relationships.

She grew up in a multiracial – multiethnic neighborhood of London – Willesden Green. In an online interview with ‘Bold Type Magazine’, the authoress said, "I didn't always write stories when I was young. I wrote some, but I've never been prolific. From the age of five to fifteen, I really wanted to be a musical movie actress. I tap danced for ten years before I began to understand people don't make musicals anymore. All I wanted to do was be at MGM working for Arthur Freed or Gene Kelly or Vincent Minelli. Historical and geographical constraints made this impossible. Slowly but surely the pen became mightier than the double pick-up time step with shuffle."

As far as her first novel “White Teeth” history and origins are concerned, she says that it all began as a small story. She watered and nurtured the plot with her resilient thoughts. Soon enough, the ‘short story’ expanded and got morphed into a bestselling novel. She did have her fair share of writing practice, while she was in college. Back then, Zadie would often submit short stories to ‘May Anthologies’.

‘May Anthologies’ was an annual magazine that enlightened its Cambridge and Oxford University readers with prose and poetic stories. One particular story struck a literary agent as something with enough potential to hit the shelves in a proper form. The agent contacted Zadie Smith and convinced her to write a full length novel, which was later on rumored to scoop a staggering $400,000 payment in advance. It was an extraordinary sum for a first time author; the agent must have been convinced of Smith’s caliber to be a renowned writer.

Rumor has it that Smith changed the spellings of her first name, at the age of 14. Probably it was a post parental divorce effect, but she opted for “Zadie” as a child. In 2002, Smith’s second novel, “The Autograph Man” was published. It was centered on a guy named Alex-Li Tandem, an avid autograph trader of Chinese descent. Tandem ensued on a journey of self-discovery after he makes a plan for tracking down a reclusive 1950s starlet.

Most recently (2005), Ms. Smith wrote “On Beauty”, another well received novel that has earned her immense recognition in the writers’ lot. The novel’s plot is woven around the lives of two fictional families, living their lives in Wellington – Mass; just outside of Boston. “On Beauty” won the Man Booker Prize and the 2006 Orange Prize in the field of fiction. The authoress has also edited a 2001 short story collection – “Piece of Flesh”, and has also dabbled in writing introductions for “The Burned Children of America” – 2003 Edtn.

Smith is a firm believer in the ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ motto’. Her prominent work is appended below:


White Teeth

2000 EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Book/Novel White Teeth
2000 EMMA (BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Award) for Best Female Media Newcomer White Teeth
2000 Guardian First Book Award White Teeth
2000 James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) White Teeth
2000 Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize (shortlist) White Teeth
2000 Whitbread First Novel Award White Teeth
2001 Authors' Club First Novel Award (shortlist) White Teeth
2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book) White Teeth
2001 Orange Prize for Fiction (shortlist) White Teeth
2001 WH Smith Award for Best New Talent White Teeth

The Autograph Man

2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction The Autograph Man
2003 Orange Prize for Fiction (shortlist) The Autograph Man
2003 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award (shortlist) The Autograph Man

On Beauty

2005 Man Booker Prize for Fiction (shortlist) On Beauty
2006 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize (shortlist) On Beauty
2006 British Book Awards Decibel Writer of the Year (shortlist) On Beauty
2006 Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book) (shortlist) On Beauty
2006 Orange Prize for Fiction On Beauty
2006 Somerset Maugham Award On Beauty