Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

I first read White Teeth a while ago, but I’ve enjoyed re-reading it for a book club. If you haven’t, it’s well worth a read.

A few things stuck out. One was a piece of imagery Smith used, in relation to Irie; of not seeing herself reflected in the world around her. Momentarily perking up when she thinks that one of Shakespeare’s sonnets might have been written about a black woman, but otherwise finding that the world did not reflect her. That’s a powerful idea – for a more detailed treatment, I recommend Peggy McIntosh’s Privilege Knapsack essay, which I found eye-opening.

Another interesting point was how Smith used the words, ‘White teeth’. I didn’t keep track quite carefully enough to be certain of this, but it seemed to me as though Smith used them when there was a power imbalance between characters. EDIT: I stand corrected – Wikipedia thinks that the teeth are used as a unifying symbol. Regardless, though, Smith throughout talks about gender, about race, about class – a little bit about sexuality, although not as much.

It’s a fun read, and worth it.


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