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Zadie Smith named 2015-16 Distinguished Visiting Writer

Acclaimed British author set to give public talk at MacEwan Hall Feb. 11


Author Zadie Smith is the 2015-16 Distinguished Visiting Writer in the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program. Photo by Dominique Nabokov

By Heath McCoy
October 7, 2015

Celebrated British writer Zadie Smith, who first took the literary world by storm with her best-selling debut White Teeth in 2000, is coming to University of Calgary for a reading at MacEwan Hall on Feb. 11, 2016.

Smith will be appearing as the university’s 2015-16 Distinguished Visiting Writer. The event is an annual highlight of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program (CDWP).

Born in the working class London borough of Brent, Smith is of Jamaican and English descent. She is currently working on a book of essays entitled Feel Free, to be released in 2016. She and her husband, Irish novelist Nick Laird, are also co-writing the screenplay for a science-fiction film set to be directed by Claire Denis and star Robert Pattinson.

Smith first attracted the attention of the publishing world while studying English at King’s College in Cambridge, where she published a number of short stories in student anthologies.

Completed during her final year at Cambridge, White Teeth is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London, told through the eyes of three ethnically diverse families. The book drew a wave of critical acclaim and won a number of awards including the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. It was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. White Teeth has been translated into more than 20 languages and was adapted for television in 2002.

Smith’s follow-up works, including novels The Autograph Man(2002), On Beauty (2005) and NW (2012), and the novella, The Embassy of Cambodia (2013), have continued to garner critical praise and top literary prizes. 

In addition to her writing, Smith taught at Harvard and Columbia universities before joining New York University as a tenured professor of fiction in 2010.

As a Distinguished Visiting Writer for the CDWP, Smith joins a long line of literary luminaries who have taken part in the annual event before her, including Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Oliver Sacks, Deepa Mehta and Michael Ondaatje.

Admittance to this event is free, but tickets are required and seating is limited. Free tickets will become available at noon on Oct. 21, 2015. Visit the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program website for details and instructions.