How Zadie Smith Gave Me Confidence

As an aspiring author, I’ve had my head in books for as long as I can remember. Each new world I entered through reading was super influential in how I perceived life and even more so on the type of author I would want to be. Until I came to college, the concept of who wrote the things I read and their message to me was different. And now that this is another aspect in how I read and how I cultivate my craft, there are fewer choices that relate to me and inspire me.

All of this changed when I heard Zadie speak. I’m a strong believer in the fact hearing an author speak in person really enhances how you think of them. But with Zadie, it was something much more than simply knowing the actual meaning of blah or the inspiration of blah. Seeing a successful mixed-race woman speak to a crowd of people about her writing was majestic. And it was majestic because of her honesty and her courage to be herself.

The biggest thing she was honest about is her selfishness. She admitted that she didn’t like taking pictures of her kids because the thought of them growing up was kind of sad. And she didn’t like the social media culture because that much information can really put a damper on your life. She even talked about why she disliked celebrity interviews. Zadie never made up excuses for her disinterest in any of these things.

Her honesty was so enlightening because it’s what I’ve been struggling to say for the longest time. We live in a society where women of color are pressured to speak highly of every liberal concept or social justice warrior cause. It’s like people see the color of your skin and that you are female and automatically think “Hey! That person is marginalized, they would be down for a good ole protest!”

Sometimes, I feel like this is the latest manifestation of racism: someone automatically assuming that you’re ready to go to battle for anything because there was a time in history when people were literally fighting for our existence. I wondered why I had to feel like I was struggling for something every day after reading about another sad incident of racial profiling or the latest stupid statement from [insert white supremacist group].

Zadie Smith has given me the confidence to ignore all of this by simply doing one thing: focusing on who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my existence. To be a great person, let alone a good writer, I don’t need to fight the power constantly. I don’t need to be super vocal about every problem our world faces. As long as I am dedicated to creating and sharing concepts with readers, no one should pay mind to me and my personal beliefs.

As I continue college, I’ll keep Zadie and her beliefs close to my heart forever. I won’t let pressures to speak ruin my ability to write. I will bask in my existence as a mixed-race woman and not let that aspect of my identity control who I am.


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