The Writer's Palette

September 17, 2014 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm6:30 pm

Harrison Auditorium, Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

The Writer's Palette

Zadie Smith

Award-winning author of White Teeth, The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW

Jed Esty

Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania

Widely regarded as one of England’s most talented authors, Zadie Smith is a masterful painter of characters of all shades and hues. Her humorous and fiercely nuanced portraits of voice, ethnicity, black culture, and diasporic spaces span both her fiction and her essays on painting, art, philosophy, and literary traditions ranging from E.M. Forster to Zora Neale Hurston. 

Received to widespread acclaim, Zadie Smith's first novel, White Teeth (2000), is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London, told through the story of three ethnically diverse families. The book won a number of awards and prizes, including the Guardian First Book Award, Whitbread First Novel Award, Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). It was also shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, and the Author’s Club First Novel Award. White Teeth has been translated into over twenty languages and was adapted for Channel 4 television for broadcast in autumn 2002. Her tenure as Writer in Residence at the Institute of Contemporary Arts resulted in the publication of an anthology of erotic stories entitled Piece of Flesh (2001). More recently, she has written the introduction for The Burned Children of America (2003), a collection of eighteen short stories by a new generation of young American writers.

Zadie Smith’s second novel, The Autograph Man (2002), is a story of loss, obsession and the nature of celebrity. It won the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize for Fiction. In 2003 and 2013 Granta magazine named her as one of 20 Best of Young British Novelists. Her third novel, On Beauty (2005), won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also written a nonfiction book about writing entitled Fail Better (2006). Her book, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, came out in 2009. Her novel, NW (2012) was named as one of the New York Times 10 Best Books of 2012.