Zadie Smith, discussing how she never mentions the race of any of the characters in her new novel, NW, unless they are white. (via theraconteurasaurus)
[Love this — kelly sue]
Oh good. That was what I did in my novel Anansi Boys. (I took some flak for it — and even found myself accused of various bad things by people who hadn’t noticed that most of the characters were African/African-American/Caribbean/Anglo-Caribbean/Of Very Mixed Race, and who felt somehow tricked or confused. But it felt very right. Still does.)
What today is…
”Well, when I changed schools, when I was a kid, my Dad made a point of telling me how much he had always looked forward to Presidents’ Day, when he was a boy, because it’s the law that on Presidents’ Day, the kids who go to school dressed as their favourite presidents get a big bag of candy.”
“Oh. That’s a nice law,” said Rosie. “I wish we had something like that in England.” Rosie had never been out of the UK, if you didn’t count a Club 18-30 holiday to an island in, she was fairly certain, the Mediterranean. She had warm brown eyes and a good heart, even if geography was not her strongest suit.
“It’s not a nice law,” said Fat Charlie. “It’s not a law at all. He made it up. Most states don’t even have school on Presidents Day, and even for the ones that do, there is no tradition of going to school on Presidents’ Day dressed as your favourite president. Kids dressed as presidents do not get big bags of candy by an Act of Congress, nor is your popularity in the years ahead, all through middle school and high school, decided entirely by which president you decided to dress as - the average kids dress as the obvious presidents, the Lincolns and Washingtons and Jeffersons, but the ones who would become popular, they dressed as John Quincy Adams or Warren Gamaliel Harding, or someone like that. And it’s bad luck to talk about it before the day. Or rather it isn’t, but he said it was.”
“Boys and girls dress up as presidents?”
“Oh yes. Boys and girls. So I spent the week before Presidents’ Day reading everything there was to read about presidents in the World Book Encyclopedia, trying to choose the right one.”
“Didn’t you ever suspect that he was pulling your leg?”
Fat Charlie shook his head. “It’s not something you think about, when my dad starts to work you over. He’s the finest liar you’ll ever meet. He’s convincing.”
Rosie took a sip of her Chardonnay. “So which President did you go to school as?”
“Taft. He was the 27th president. I wore a brown suit my father had found somewhere, with the legs all rolled up and a pillow stuffed down the front. I had a painted-on moustache. My dad took me to school himself that day. I walked in so proudly. The other kids just screamed and pointed, and somewhere in there I locked myself in a cubicle in the boys’ room and cried. They wouldn’t let me go home to change. I went through the day like that. It was Hell.”
“You should have made something up,” said Rosie. “You were going to a costume party afterwards or something. Or just told them the truth.”
“Yeah,” said Fat Charlie meaningfully and gloomily, remembering.
“What did your dad say, when you got home?”
“Oh, he hooted with laughter. Chuckled and chortled and, and chittered and all that. Then he told me that maybe they didn’t do that Presidents’ Day stuff any more. Now, why didn’t we go down to the beach together and look for mermaids?”
From ANANSI BOYS. By some British Guy.