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Zadie Smith Receives the 2021 St. Louis Literary Award

by Maggie Rotermund on 11/05/2021
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Zadie Smith was honored Thursday, Nov. 4, with the 2021 St. Louis Literary Award. She received the award in a ceremony at the Sheldon Concert Hall which featured a conversation between Smith and Christopher Tinson, Ph.D., chair of Saint Louis University’s Department of African American Studies.

2021 St. Louis Literary Award

Christopher Tinson, Ph.D., chair of Saint Louis University's Department of African American Studies, speaks with British author Zadie Smith at the 2021 St. Louis Literary Award ceremony. Photo by Maggie Rotermund.

Zadie Smith is the author of the novels “White Teeth,” “The Autograph Man,” “On Beauty,” “NW,” and “Swing Time,” as well as essay collections “Changing My Mind” and “Feel Free.”

Smith told the audience that receiving awards always felt to her like an acknowledgment of reaching a goal or a pinnacle, whereas she still saw herself as striving to work on the next story.

“The words run through my fingers,” Smith said. “The process never ends, but receiving this award feels like I am in a gathering of my fellow authors - living and dead - on this list and that is such a gift.”

She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2002, and was listed as one of Granta’s 20 Best Young British Novelists in 2003 and again in 2013. “White Teeth” won multiple literary awards including the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. “On Beauty” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Orange Prize for Fiction, and “NW” was shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

Smith is currently a tenured professor of fiction at New York University and a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her latest work, “Intimations,” is a short series of reflective essays written during the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown. Intimations explores ideas and questions prompted by an unprecedented situation.

The event included a musical performance by St. Louis Music Box and a dramatic reading by Nancy Bell, the director of the Theatre Program at Saint Louis University, of the short story “Parents Morning Epiphany” from “Grand Union.”

Smith also participated in a Craft Talk Friday, Nov. 5, with Rachel Greenwald Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of English at Saint Louis University.

St. Louis Literary Award

The St. Louis Literary Award is presented annually by the Saint Louis University Library Associates and has become one of the top literary prizes in the country. The award honors a writer who deepens our insight into the human condition and expands the scope of our compassion. Some of the most important writers of the 20th and 21st centuries have come to Saint Louis University to accept the honor, including Margaret Atwood, Salmon Rushdie, Eudora Welty, John Updike, Saul Bellow, August Wilson, Stephen Sondheim and Tom Wolfe.

Saint Louis University Library Associates

One of the oldest literary and cultural organizations in St. Louis, the Saint Louis University Library Associates seeks to build a closer relationship between the University and the community and to promote an appreciation for the value of literature. The Library Associates work to enhance the visibility of the Saint Louis University Libraries and to support the development of their world-class collections and services.