Once a week, Black Balloon's editorial assistant Kate Gavino chooses the best Q and the best A from one of New York's literary in-store events. Here, Kate draws from Zadie Smith's reading at Greenlight Bookstore on September 28.
What made you want to write about your hometown?
Zadie Smith: What drew me back to [Hackney] is fiction. I love to think about it and write about it. Some of the changes I fought to put in the book since there's been a great deal of gentrification, which in Brooklyn you're perfectly familiar with. It's always most painful for long-term locals, and some of it I feel is justified. But some of it is also irrational. You're really angry about the cupcake shop even though what was there before was a wasteland with a dead body on it. That's the way it is. I do find myself when I'm [in Hackney] complaining a lot, which I probably shouldn't do.
To me, half my area is very homogenous. It's just the kind of thing that mainstream media doesn't complain about. For a lot of people, when your neighborhood becomes entirely white and entirely upper middle class, it is a different kind of invasion – stressful to the people who live there. Most stressful is the assumption on the part of that community that you are grateful that they come. That's the difference because most immigrants don't assume that you'd be grateful that they've appeared in masses. But that particular contingent thinks they're a great blessing to wherever they land.
Image courtesy the author