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Lowell Series, Fiction Days Welcome Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith

By Rosanne Pellegrini | Chronicle Staff

Published: Mar. 27, 2014

Award-winning novelist, short story author and essayist Zadie Smith – considered one of the most acclaimed young writers plying their craft today – will appear on campus next week at a Lowell Humanities Series event. 

Smith will read from a new story, “Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets,” on April 1 at 7 p.m. in Gasson 100. During her visit at Boston College, she will talk to faculty in a Diaspora Seminar group, read and comment on undergraduate student work in an Advanced Fiction Workshop led by Professor of English Elizabeth Graver and meet with students in the African and African Diaspora Studies Program (AADS).

Her work has consistently garnered coveted awards and critical accolades. Smith’s first novel, White Teeth, won The Whitbread First Novel Award, The Guardian First Book Award, The James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and The Commonwealth Writers’ First Book Award. Her second, The Autograph Man, took the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize and her third, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won The Commonwealth Writers’ Best Book Award (Eurasia Section) and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

Following suit, Smith’s most recent novel, 2012’s NW, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

When The Guardian asked Smith in 2010 for her rules for writing fiction, she replied, “Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”

 “I have long wanted to bring British novelist Zadie Smith to campus, and the fact that she’s now living in the US for part of the year — teaching [creative writing] at NYU since 2010 — made the idea more tenable,” said Graver, who is hosting Smith’s campus visit. “I expect our students to find Zadie’s energy, deep learning, desire to reinvent, and willingness to take risks as exciting as I do.”

She describes Smith – who divides her time between her native London and New York – as “an extraordinary novelist and short story writer, as well as a smart, perceptive and bold cultural and literary critic. Her novels are quite different from each other, but all explore questions of identity, community, multiculturalism, social class.

“Her fiction asks complex questions in embedded, quirky, playful ways. It’s funny and heartbreaking, full of language that manages both to surprise and illuminate. Her books cross all sorts of borders in brilliant and unexpected ways. Hers is a mind I love to follow, wherever it goes.”

[Author Edwidge Danticat was originally scheduled to be on campus, but when she had to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, she asked Smith to take her place.]

Smith’s visit is one of several Institute for the Liberal Arts-sponsored author visits Graver has hosted over the years as part of BC’s Fiction Days; others have included acclaimed writers Gish Jen and Junot Diaz in three-day residencies – due to logistics this year’s Fiction Days were shortened. 

“Instead of a three-day schedule, Zadie will spend a packed 24 hours on campus – a brief period but one during which she will interact with many different groups,” Graver explained. Her appearance as part of the Lowell Humanities Series is her only public campus event.

In addition to the ILA, Smith’s visit is sponsored by Fiction Days, AADS, and the Lowell Humanities Series. For more information, see