Happy Birthday to Author Zadie Smith!

Zadie Smith announcing the five 2010 National Book Critics Circle finalists in fiction. // Credit: David Shankbone

Novelist Zadie Smith was born October 25, 1975, in London, England. Her critically-acclaimed first novel White Teeth was published when she was only 24 — propelling her into the spotlight.

Born to a Jamaican mother and English father, Zadie Smith grew up in England and as a teen considered a career in musical theater before writing became a focus. Smith earned a degree in English Literature from King’s College, Cambridge, in 1997. While in school, she published several short stories which drew the attention of a publisher who offered her a book contract.

Her first novel White Teeth tells the story of two unlikely friends and was published in 2000 to critical success. Smith also won many awards for the novel including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize — one of the oldest literature prizes in Britain. When asked if her mixed-race heritage influenced the “White Teeth,” she told The Guardian, “When you come from a mixed-race family, it makes you think a bit harder about inheritance and what’s passed on from generation to generation.”

After White Teeth, Smith went on to write The Autograph Man, which was another commercial success. She also continued to publish short stories in addition to her award-winning novels. Her third novel On Beauty won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2006.

“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone.” — Zadie Smith “On Beauty”

Zadie went on to publish a book of critical essays called Changing My Mind before her fourth novel, NW named to the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2012.

In addition to her own writing, Zadie began teaching in New York University’s Creative Writing program in 2010. She has said that teaching and discussing novels with students “has been extremely useful for me. I hope it’s been useful for them too.”

In 2016, Smith’s fifth novel Swing Time, which follows the friendship of two young black girls over the course of 25 years was published. She told The Guardian that she had a very specific audience in mind for Swing Time:

“This time I was thinking very particularly about black girls. I’m very happy if other people read the book, but that’s who the book is for explicitly, and that’s who I wanted to write to.”

Throughout her amazing career thus far, Zadie Smith has continued to inspire young writers with her brilliant novels and short stories. Women like Zadie inspire us to tell our own stories and today we celebrate her birthday!

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.