Swing Time - Zadie Smith
NB:We have moved ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist to Sept. In July we will be discussing ‘Elmet’ by Fiona Mozley.
The next meeting of the Book Club will be on Thurs June 14th when we will be talking about ‘Swing Time by Zadie Smith. Doors open for refreshment at 7 pm and discussion starts at 7.30pm.
For Introduction and discussion questions see below:
INTRODUCTION TO SWING TIME BY ZADIE SMITH
New York Times bestseller * Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction * Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty.
Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
- 1. Why do you think the narrator remains un-named for the duration of this novel? What effect does this have on the reader?
- 2. Compare and contrast the fathers of Tracey and the narrator. Discuss how Tracey’s story about the narrator’s father drew a wedge in their friendship. Do you believe Tracey’s story?
- 3. Compare and contrast Tracey’s and the narrator’s mothers.
- 4. The narrator’s mother compares the narrator’s life to slavery. She is working for Amy and not living a life of her own. What do you think the narrator really wants from life?
- 5. Tracey’s father talks about how there is distinct separation of races inside prison, where on the outside there is mixing. How much mixing do Tracey and the narrator experience? Are they fundamentally drawn like to like as well?
- 6. Discuss the experience of being of mixed race, not being fully white or black as experienced by the narrator and Tracey.
- 7. Discuss the complexities of girlhood friendships and how this might change as girls mature into adults?
- 8. The narrator’s mother tells the narrator that she is nothing if she uses her body for work rather than her mind. The narrator tells her mother that she is nothing. How is this a coming of age moment?
- 9. Discuss the relationship the narrator has and the warmth she feels from her father as compared to her mother?
- 10. Why does our obsession with celebrities allow for a certain amount of chaos?
Discuss the video made of Tracey and the narrator dancing. What effect does it have at the time and how does this come back to haunt the narrator?
- 11. When the narrator goes to West Africa she is told repeatedly “things are difficult here,” when she tries to go somewhere or do something on her own. Why? Why do they treat her with “kid gloves”?
- 12. Compare the fates of the women in the West African village to Tracey’s fate.
- 13. Discuss the culture and community that the narrator experiences in West Africa. How does Amy’s presence and the wealth that flows in change things? Discuss the diaspora that is happening.
- 14. The narrator’s mother becomes part of Parliament, but is beaten down and tormented by the letters that Tracey sends. Why do you think these letters affect her so deeply?
- 15. Why does the narrator go to visit Tracey and her children as the novel ends? What is her intent?