2016 for me has been a bit of a strange one, sometimes this had worked in my favor and sometimes let’s just say, it hasn’t. Last night was one of the times 2016 worked for me in a surreal way.
I read “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith ages ago. I can’t remember how long ago was this but the characters are still fresh in my head. How uncomfortable Irie felt in her body, how close I felt to what she was going through while growing up. This author through Irie made me understand better my experience of growing up, of feeling like I didn’t belong.
I read this book in Bogota, and it was the first time I read about London in such a detailed way, and more importantly, it was the first time I got to imagine London in such a diverse way. A Jamaican hair salon in North London and an Indian restaurant, inhabiting the same city, a few miles from each other. This novel for me was the first time I considered how important diversity was for literature and it blew my mind to think that writers could do that to you: make you rethink your place in the world.
Years later at the beginning of this year, I read “On Beauty,” I was half through my MA in creative writing, still trying to figure out what kind of writer I wanted to be. I got lost in the multiple voices, in the diversity again, in the language and the various stories about people trying to relate to each other and failing miserably. It made me understand that writing was pretty much about learning how to make your characters come alive through what made them vulnerable.
Yesterday, I got to see her in Manchester talking about her new Book, “Swing time.” I still haven’t read the book but the themes in the book sound amazing: friendship, class, dancing and origins. One of the moments that touched me was when she said that happiness was one of the few emotions you’ll experience in a lifetime. Full disclosure here, I just finished grad school, and I’m going through a transitional period of looking for jobs and trying to move to a new place. Starting over. Sometimes I feel weird… it seems like I should be happy, and sometimes I wake up, and I am discouraged but seeing a woman that has come so far with writing, and writing well, made me feel hopeful that night. We don’t need to be successful at 24 as she was but we need to be constant and consistent, writing things that we think will have an impact on people and hopefully talking in a way that is inspiring to those who need a bit of guidance. Zadie Smith words still continue to be a source of light for me and for that, 2016 has been amazing. Not only allowing me to see her talk about her career but also delivering “Swing Time” for me to indulge in my fan girl moments.
Do you have a favorite Zadie Smith book? Which ones are your favorite authors, have you ever seen them in person?