Department of WTF

Zadie Smith was in town yesterday to read from On Beauty. There were about 300 people at the event, which was held at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland. Smith chose a scene from early on in the novel, when Jerome drags the entire Belsey family to a Mozart concert, and they run into two of Howard’s colleagues: Jack French, the Dean of Humanities, and Erskine Jegede, the chair of the Black Studies Department.

The Q&A proceeded in a rather textbook fashion (“How do you write?” “What are you reading at the moment?” “Which writers have influenced you?” etc.) Then a gentleman sitting in the balcony asked her how she felt about “normalizing black people.”

(I am not making this up.)

Though Smith appeared to be bewildered by the question, she remained gracious, and calmly responded that she doesn’t see what would be wrong with that, because she herself feels very normal [a round of applause].


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