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Review: Zadie Smith engaging in speech, well-spoken in answers at Ohio State

British author Zadie Smith speaks to OSU students and faculty Nov. 13 at Mershon Auditorium. Credit: Alex Drummer / Oller reporter

British author Zadie Smith speaks to OSU students and faculty Nov. 13 at Mershon Auditorium.
Credit: Alex Drummer / Oller reporter

From touching on subjects such as President Barack Obama to her experience growing up with a feminist mother, award-winning author Zadie Smith shared her narratives to a crowd at Ohio State.

Attendees packed Mershon Auditorium on Thursday evening for the chance to hear Smith speak from her experience, as well as provide her take on cultural phenomena and events that audience members could indulge in and relate to.

Despite the auditorium’s capacity of 2,500, it’s no surprise it was mostly full, given her diverse background and experiences.

Smith, who was born in London to an English father and a Jamaican mother, began seeing success in 2000 with the novel “White Teeth,” which has now been translated into more than 20 languages, according to the OSU Humanities Institute website.

But Zadie’s talk appealed to more than just writers and potential authors in the audience.

The event was titled, “A Conversation on Race, Writing and Culture with Zadie Smith,” and the audience got just that — and a lot more.

The connectedness of Smith and attendees was perhaps best seen during the Q&A portion of the evening.

One question came from a young aspiring writer who shared personal information about her upbringing in foster care and her life now in the middle class.

She said she struggled because to fit in with either her middle class peers or the community where she grew up and asked Smith how to get those two voices to work together.

“You have to start thinking about it as a kind of gift and not just a problem,” Smith said in reply.

From this, Smith was able to branch off and use the opportunity to speak to more general issues revolving around class, referencing a “comprehensive bubble” where the middle class lives.

Although the Q&A portion of an event can often be lackluster, Smith was eloquent and made the most of the Q&A section by formulating deep, thoughtful responses that both benefited the asker and the audience.

Another question was posed by a young woman from South Africa who moved to the U.S. a few years ago. Since living in the U.S., she has had problems dealing with oppression and learning about America’s history and asked Smith for guidance.

Again, Smith was able to use the opportunity to speak more broadly on the issue of racism in America.

Smith spoke about the difficulty she has had while recently trying to read books about slavery and how it has made her realize why racist tendencies are still in place. She compared the issue to the spiral effect of domestic abuse.

“Just as if you abused a child, you can expect that abuse to last until four or five or six, seven generations. It’s like that — it’ll take a very, very, very long time,” Smith said.

Smith did, however, make an effort to point out the bright side as well, citing the willingness of young people to fight injustice in the world and the current progress that could be seen in the room.

“It is a miracle that you all are sitting here, given the context. You have to celebrate the miracle even (of) people being able to sit next to each other,” Smith said.

 

2 comments

  1. Who wrote that awful headline?

  2. As though we expect Zadie Smith not to be well spoken? Please find an editor.

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