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May 22, 2017 | by  | in Books |
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Swing Time — Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith was one of those authors who I’d heard of and completely dismissed because she sounded like another postmodern, over-praised, elitist circler of the prize-winning circuit. This was based on mainly the fact that she was a contemporary writer, and the design of her book covers. I’m a fickle, snobbish reader. Books are where I feel at ease, and therefore most comfortably judgemental. And I can’t stand narratives about contemporary adults making dumb decisions in their hollow suburban lives and then waxing clichés about it. So gross.

But then, as happens shamefully often, I opened one of her books one day at the library and read a page, and I thought to myself, oh. Darn it. I like her.

She’s smart. She’s self-aware. And she has arguments to make, which I can respect.

Swing Time is the interwoven story of two mixed-race women who meet as children in a dance class in London in the early ’80s. Their respective contexts are at a stark contrast; one intellectual and upper class, the other looked down on as low rent. But their mutual love of dance and their shared identity as children from two cultures ties their lives together. The narrative jumps back and forth over the following decades as their paths diverge and converge, as one travels across continents and the other is stuck at home with a growing family, as one touches the edges of fame and the other digs into bitterness and self-destruction.

Smith seems to be searching for something concrete. For answers to questions she’s had bubbling inside for years. Through her writing she is working out her demons, and while she’s not her characters, she can’t help but speak through them. If you feel this search too, you might find yourself echoed in her words.

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