Question Prompt: If you had the opportunity to have lunch with any influential woman, who would it be and what would you eat?
My high school history teacher told me about a young woman he had come across called Zadie Smith. He knew that I liked to write, that I often thought about identity as a woman and as a woman of color and that I liked to laugh. She had just finished her first novel, White Teeth, which she had written at the age of 19. Instead of borrowing the book from the library, I bought the book instead. I was convinced that I would love her writing-and I was right.
White Teeth is still one of those books that I am constantly revisiting. I am still highlighting new passages and reading the same sentences that touched me when I was younger. I’ve read her other works, from On Beauty to NW. I’ve read her literary critiques and essays on hip hop. A few books and several New Yorker essays later and Zadie Smith is still one of my favorite authors.
I would have a very long brunch with her. There would be tea and pancakes and conversations about pop culture, identity, and literature. I would ask her about growth as a writer and how to be young and black and female and how to find the words to describe experience and community. I would tell her about how when I was younger and looking for writers who reflected me, she was there and how I am still grateful for her presence today.