October 25, 1975
Zadie Smith was a British author who set the literary world aflame in 2000 with the publication of her universally acclaimed debut novel White Teeth. Born as Sadie Smith in the London borough of Brent to an English father and Jamaican mother, Smith always had a creative side. As a young girl she had dreams of becoming everything from a musical theater actress to a jazz singer, but eventually settled on becoming a writer. At the age of 14 she changed the first letter in her first name to Z, thus becoming Zadie Smith. A gifted student, Smith attended the prestigious Cambridge University where she studied English literature. While attending Cambridge, Smith also began writing short stories for a university anthology, and quickly proved to be a talented writer. Her stories in the anthology caught the attention of a literary agent, who then commissioned Smith write her debut novel, White Teeth. Upon its publication in 2000, White Teeth was a smash success, becoming an instant bestseller while simultaneously establishing Smith, who was then only 25, as a young writer to watch. A small bout of writer's block temporarily halted the progress of her second novel, The Autograph Man, which she quickly overcame; her follow-up book, The Autograph Man, was published in 2002 to equal acclaim. 2002 was also the year White Teeth was adapted for British television's Channel 4, thus presenting Smith's work to a whole new audience. Smith published a collection of stories as well as a novel in 2005, but her readers would have to wait another seven years before her next novel, NW, was published in 2012. During that time, Smith became a tenured professor of fiction writing at New York University, thus making her permanent home in the United States. Smith's fifth novel, Swing Time, which was set in both England and Africa, was published in the fall of 2016.