Book Review: Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Unbelievably, this was my first Zadie Smith. How is that possible? I'm super embarrassed by this fact, but there it is.
The novel is narrated by a young biracial woman, recounting her childhood and early adulthood, and the things -- dance, music, education -- and people -- her mother, best friend, employer -- that shaped the direction of her life.
Passionate about dance, our narrator becomes friends with the only other biracial girl in her dance class, Tracey. Tracey is gifted at dance and her mother eagerly supports her while our narrator's mother is focused on educating herself and achieving personal happiness and success. Our narrator is shuttled to better schools and ends up becoming the assistant to a massive pop celebrity, an experience that changes her life in so many ways.
I liked this book, although I don't think its blurb does it justice -- I really expected a story about two friends -- the narrator and Tracey -- but when our narrator becomes a teen, she and Tracey fall out of touch. I kept waiting for the narrator and Tracey to intersect at some point, especially since the narrator's boss does shows with background dancers, but instead, the novel veers into the pop star's problematic school in Africa.
There are many lovely themes in the novel; Smith touches on unknown dancer Jeni LeGon (fascinating and made me want more dancing/dance history to feature) as well as the implications of class, access, and education. There was clearly something with our narrator remaining unnamed, centered among big personalities such as her mother and her celebrity boss, and yet, she was also on the outer fringe, left out to just observe. I didn't mind that distance, but it did make me feel like I wasn't picking up on something in the story as she seemed to just recount and reminisce.
Gorgeous written, so not a disappointment there. Will obviously be reading more Smith in the future (any recs on what I should pick up next?).
Title: Swing Time
Author: Zadie Smith
Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / UK / Biracial / Friendship / Coming-of-Age / Dance / Celebrity / Mothers and Daughters)
Publisher/Publication Date: Penguin Press (11/15/16)
Source: My public library
Reading Challenges: Read Diverse