Biography of Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith was born Sadie Smith in North London in 1975, the daughter of a working-class English father and Jamaican mother. At age fourteen, she changed the first letter of her first name to "Z," purportedly to draw attention to her individuality. Smith attended King's College, Cambridge, where she studied English literature. While a student, she began a manuscript for the novel that would become White Teeth; in a fairy-tale experience, she found a literary agent after submitting little more than a single chapter. White Teeth created quite the anticipatory buzz, and Smith published the novel in 2000 to instant acclaim. White Teeth received The Guardian First Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction), the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book).

Smith's second novel, The Autograph Man, met with success upon its 2002 release, but did not garner as universally positive a response as White Teeth. However, it did win the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction, and led to Smith's nomination as one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists' by Granta magazine. After her second novelistic endeavor, Smith visited the United States as a 2002-2003 Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University. There, she started work on a book of essays about 20th-century writers, entitled The Morality of the Novel. In it, Smith examined the moral bent of some of her influences, including E.M. Forster, John Updike, Vladimir Nabokov, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Smith's storytelling style inspired the term "Hysterical Realism," a concept that refers to long-winded, opinionated narratives that evoke emotional richness from mundane events, and are characterized by erratic action and numerous tangents. She shares the genre with such writers as the legendary Salman Rushdie, Russian novelist Mikhail Bulgakov, and an American writer of Smith's own generation, Jonathan Safran Foer. Smith names poet Philip Larkin her favorite writer. Smith's third novel, On Beauty, was published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize. More recently, she has published the novels NW (2012) and Swing Time (2016).

Study Guides on Works by Zadie Smith

On Beauty was published in 2005. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that September, and won Zadie Smith the Orange Prize for Fiction (now called the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction) in 2006. The book follows a hysterical realistic style...

White Teeth is Zadie Smith's acclaimed debut novel, first published when she had barely finished college. The novel began as a short story, and a single chapter gained Smith a contract with a prominent literary agency. The novel was released in...