Zadie Smith: “She wanted to be a jazz singer but decided she wasn’t as good as Aretha Franklin.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of Zadie Smith, born in London in 1975. She grew up in a working-class suburb with her Jamaican mother and English father. She wanted to be a tap dancer but she decided she wasn’t skinny enough; then she wanted to be a jazz singer but she decided she wasn’t as good as Aretha Franklin. She said, “Slowly but surely the pen became mightier than the double pick-up timestep with shuffle.”

So she went back to writing, which she’d always liked anyway. She says she was a badly behaved teenager, but she managed to get into Cambridge. She worked hard on writing fiction in college, and one short story got too long to be a short story, but she didn’t like novellas, so she just kept writing and writing and eventually, she wrote White Teeth (2001).

She said, “I express myself with my friends and my family. Novels are not about expressing yourself, they’re about something beautiful, funny, clever, and organic. Self-expression? Go and ring a bell in the yard if you want to express yourself.”

Speak Your Mind

*