Zadie Smith Talks Writing, Women and Feminism With Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Before Beyoncé projected feminism across the global stage last year, authors Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche were penning their own very distinct narratives of feminism, race, and sex in their respective written works, "Americanah" and "On Beauty."

In addition to being award-winning writers, the two women share the fortune of having their first novels published at a considerably young age.

Last week, the two literary powerhouses engaged in a conversation about "race, feminism, and finding one's identity in a globalized world," in front of a live audience at the NYPL Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture. 

Amid plenty of humor and banter, Smith and Adichie dropped a few gems on writing and women alike. Here are few highlights from their candid conversation.

On women
"You know that idea that a woman can't own her sexuality, can't own her choices? [So this is the anti-Mills and Boon in many ways.] The women in my world don't have to wait because they're women." —Adichie

"What really appealed to me in this book [Americanah] was the sense of a position of an argument, and particularly of women who have not even a moment's doubt about speaking their mind, which I think is quite unusual in American fiction … But the women in your fiction are somehow always themselves. They're always confident." —Smith

"The idea of a woman being strong, and simply being strong, not to prove anything and not to be unusual, is normal to me." —Adichie

On Writing
"Clarity's important to me. The kind of writing that I like to read is writing that is clear. I think it's very easy to confuse something that's badly written as something that's somehow deep. If something is incomprehensible and the sentences are bad, we're supposed to say, 'Oh that's really deep.' It's not the kind of fiction I like to read." —Adichie

On feminism
"Maybe it's that difference that Alice Walker pointed out so many years ago between 'feminine' and 'womanist': the idea of not being something that’s just passive, waiting to be taken, but something that acts in the world." —Smith

Listen to the full conversation here.

Watch Pulitzer-Prize Winning Author Alice Walker's video above on how she she got her hands on books as a young, poor child and her early favorites. Learn more about her story from her MAKERS profile.

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