Zadie Smith and Politics Through the Lens of Self

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For the February installment of Talking Books @ LBPH, we read Swing Time by Zadie Smith. This was the first Smith book I’ve read and initially, I was intimidated by its length: close to 500 pages.

But right away the author’s conversational tone and character development captivated me.

Here’s the general plot line: An unnamed narrator who is middle-class and biracial grows up in London, takes dance class with her best friend Tracey, and ends up traveling to West Africa while working for a world-famous pop star. She reflects back on her life and the decisions she’s made, allowing for time and analysis to fill in the story’s gaps.

Smith manages to dissect family dynamics (e.g. the narrator’s relationship with her strong-willed mother and her father’s children from a previous romance), race (e.g. Tracey’s upbringing and humble fate), and class (e.g. the international pop star’s ignorance and pretentiousness), as well as feminism and the institutions of both marriage and higher education.

A reminder that life and politics are inextricably linked, Swing Time is as timely a read as ever.

Swing Time
DB 86304
CL 16394

By Zadie Smith

Two biracial girls become friends through dance classes held in a London church, though they also live in the same public housing. One is raised among books and intellectual conversations. The other’s father is in prison. Their lives follow different, and unexpected, tracks. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2016.

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki via Flickr.