A Kind of Prison

"When I was a child I was constantly being told that various habits of mine - I suppose including reading – made me less black than I should be. But the idea that you can be less authentic than you are is nonsense. There’s no such thing. And to struggle under that idea, to concern yourself constantly about your identity seems to me a kind of prison. And it’s one that white people don’t have to anything like to the same degree. They have a kind of existential freedom that they don’t even notice because it is what every human being should have and deserves to have and is natural. But if you don’t have it, if you‘re constantly wondering instead not what it is to be but what it is to be black, then you’re completely cornered. So I suppose that all my characters to some extent are looking for identities. Constantly when I’m in interviews I’m being told, 'Your books are all about the search for identity,' and I always think My gosh, my books are all about that search being entirely pointless.”

- Zadie Smith, discussing her novel, On Beauty, with Michael Silverblatt on KCRW's Bookworm.