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KRCC Airs Heidi Lewis Interview with Zadie Smith

KRCC Airs Heidi Lewis Interview with Zadie Smith

Heidi Lewis, assistant professor of Feminist and Gender Studies, interviewed celebrated author Zadie Smith on KRCC, Colorado College’s NPR-member station. Listen to the interview here.

Smith is the winner of numerous awards and the author of “White Teeth,” “The Autograph Man,” “On Beauty,” and, most recently, “NW.” She was on campus Feb. 25 as part of the 2014 MacLean Symposium on Globalization, Culture, and Literature.

When asked what draws her to Smith’s work, Lewis noted that Smith once said her most recent novel was partly inspired by Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure.” Said Lewis, “Along those lines, Smith said, ‘The happy ending is never universal. Someone is always left behind. And in the London I grew up in—as it is today—that someone is more often than not a young black man.’ ”

Lewis said her own work is “committed to people and communities that are systemically and systematically subjugated due to their race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and other social markers. Hence, I appreciate that Smith’s work shares the same commitment.”

Lewis also noted that similarly, in “NW,” Smith writes about Natalie, a woman struggling to find fulfillment in her career, marriage, and motherhood. “Smith once claimed that her books aren’t about ‘anything other than the people in them and the sentences used to construct them.’ However, “NW” seems to be offering some important critiques/theories about the relationships between gender, race, and a particular kind of success, especially in Natalie’s story. I think such works inspire very important conversations about who is and who isn’t afforded an idealistically ‘happy ending’ and the implications for narrow constructions of and access to happiness,” Lewis said.

“During our interview, I was captivated by Smith’s discussion of her role as an educator—her discussion about the rewards and challenges of being an educator, especially at an institution like NYU. I don’t think people realize how much our pedagogy is influenced by the students we teach. When students are privileged, it almost necessitates that educators adjust their teaching for an audience that is almost always skeptical of our work. I can’t speak for Smith entirely, but it is challenging to justify the significance of your work at every turn,” said Lewis.