Kim's Reviews > White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
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Jul 03, 07

bookshelves: fiction

This book is highly entertaining. It is the intergenerational story of finding identity in a hostile environment. What makes this book unique however, is that it is a sort of dissection of the ways in which we construct our identities, and the tools that we use to do so. It is less important almost, the identity constructed in the end or along the way; the journey is what matters, and the weight of history during the journey. This book contains some of the greatest charcter development I've read in a long time. If you like a nice wrapped up ending this book is not for you, but if you prefer to become intimately involved in the lives of people for a time, and the mystery of not knowing what happens to them, but being well equipped to make an educated guess, read this book.

Something that is really refreshing about this book is the approach Smith takes to the portrayal of racism. It's really upfront and present throughout the whole book. Parts of this work could function as a workbook along the lines of, "Are you a racist jerk?" or "Colonial metalities in daily interactions." And while I found myself groaning a lot at the really racist paternalist stuff people said or did in this book, I also was able to see aspects of those behaviors in my own, past and present, which is always helpful in overcoming racist training from dominant culture.
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message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Jul 06, 2007 08:49AM) (new)

I really like that you mention "the weight of history". I found history and it's effect on the characterization to be fascinating. I feel like historical content helps shape and contextualize the characters and could even be considered a character itself in it's interplay with the people of the story.


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Yeah! It was especially cool that major historical events took a back seat to character development within them, becoming just flash points in personal development and disconnected from their geopolitical implications. And they become mythic events for future generations as important but misunderstood points of development rather than events that changed or shaped the world as we all know it. Meanwhile larger periods of history, like England's colonial rule of India were constant antagonists. The question, how does history effect our lives becomes almost less important than what history effects our lives


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