Zadie Smith grew up in the north-west London borough of Brent. She studied at Cambridge and when she was 21 she wrote her much lauded debut novel White Teeth. Four novels have followed (including NW and On Beauty) as well as essays and short stories. Her new novel, Swing Time, is now available in Australia. Throughout her career Zadie’s work has received critical acclaim and sales success.
“What I remember about growing up in public housing is a sense of intimacy, of living in very close quarters with family and others.
It made me very curious about the people next door, literally and metaphorically. The questions ‘why do we do this, and why do they do something else?’ are always high in my mind.
Some public housing estates are examples of truly multicultural living, and this is a great strength. But there are plenty of monocultural estates.
I think the larger gift is breaking up and disrupting the model of the self-contained bourgeois family unit. In an estate, when it is running well, you think not only of your family, but of your corridor, your block, your community.
The block is raw talent, the block is street-wise, the block has a sense of humour, the block knows everybody else on the block, the block has its ups and downs but is always full of possibility. Take what you learn there – that only you know – and keep on moving to where you want to go.”