Meeting Zadie Again

It was a breezy evening in Paris.  Shakespeare & Co was filled with its normal charm and groups of anxious, excited bibliophile tourists.  The ka-ching of the cash register couldn’t be missed from outside, which was filling up with hopefuls who wanted to catch a glimpse of or hear a few words from the illustrious Zadie Smith.  This would be her second visit to the famous Shakespeare & Co. in Paris – almost exactly one year since her first visit, which I was equally IMG_1750lucky to attend.  I waited with three friends hoping that arriving early would equate to available seating.  However that wasn’t so easy since this meeting was set up by New York University(where Zadie Smith teaches creative writing) for students and staff.  They paid so they got ninety percent of the seating.

All the festivities took place outside and that led to a different, noisier atmosphere.  Last year it took place inside Shakespeare & Co, where the staff lined tiny little stools among all the available space inside the less than spacious bookstore.  It was a tight squeeze but we all made the best of it because we were going to see Zadie.

Once all the chairs were lined up outside.  We finally grabbed four available seats and just prayed nobody would ask us to give them up. Whew! 7pm came and we were still seated. By this time there was an extremely thick crowd that surrounded the seating making for an impressive turnout.  Since I was in the back row i could feel people just behind my chair.

The festivities took off right on schedule.  Zadie’s opening act was none other than her husband Nick Laird, Irish novelist poet.  I had no idea he was going to be there.  He was a nice surprise though.  His rich Irish accent and his humorous, straightforward poems were refreshing.  I’m looking forward to picking up one of his collections.  He seemed a little nervous in the beginning but he soon warmed up to the crowd that was obviously mostly there to see his wife.  His poetry got lots of laughs and smiles and was an excellent debut before Zadie Smith.

At last Zadie started to speak and the silence from the audience contrasted hugely from the cars, trucks, buses and blaring horns that seemed to surround us.  Nevertheless, we all had our ears perked up for the story she read us which was a bit of the new novel she’s working on, that she called Swingtime.  Love the title and adored what she read.  It was about two little black girls and their meeting for the first time and recounting a birthday party they attended.  It was all IMG_1796very Zadie Smith – race and class conscious, sensitive, a strong first person voice.  It was everything I love about her books.  I could see that they inspire each other.  The strong first person voice is present in both their work.

After her reading quite a few pages ūüėÄ to us the book buying recommenced and the lines for book signing lengthened quickly.  It didn’t take too long before I found myself in front of Zadie again.  She signed my three books that I didn’t get signed last time – The Autograph Man, On Beauty, and Changing My Mind:  Occasional Essays.  She was very pretty and dressed in a cute dress which looked thrifted.  Her brown turban was covering her hair as usual  but making her bright wide eyes stand out on her beautifully freckled face.  She was smiling but not nearly as much as the first time I saw her.  She seemed tired.  All in all I was happy to see her for a second time and hear a bit of the new book she’s working on, which I can’t wait to read.  Apparently she’s been working on a film with her husband but not sure when it’s coming out or what it’s about.

 

 

A Special Wednesday….

Most of my Wednesdays are always the same.  I wake up early and get ready for work.  I work all morning and through lunch.  I then usually spend my afternoon preparing for my classes on the following day.  However, yesterday was special.  Instead of spending my afternoon planning lessons.  I went with a friend to Paris to La Maison de la Poésie to attend a talk with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This was my first visit to La Maison de la¬†Po√©sie and I’m sure it won’t be my last. ¬†It’s cozy and the main theatre is comfortable and the stage is visible to all attending, not to mention they invite interesting authors regularly. ¬†Tickets were sold on the internet, only 6‚ā¨ to attend. ¬†We arrived just before 6pm and fortunately the doors were already opened. ¬†I don’t think we could have stood outside in the -1¬įC cold. ¬†As time moved on more and more people started to show. ¬†I met a blogger friend¬†IMG_1277Marina from Young Gifted and Black, for the first time, as well as some other interesting bloggers. ¬†It was thanks to her that I learned about the event. ¬†Even though it was our first time meeting, we sat and had some passionate discussions about books and movies, while waiting to enter the theatre. ¬†It was as if we’d been friends for years. ¬†I hope to see he soon at some future events.

Seven pm struck, the doors to the theatre opened and the crowd started to get excited moving quickly through to try to get the best seats. ¬†It was a full house. ¬†My friend Amy and I were seated in the middle, towards the back with a great central view of the stage. ¬†We sat in the dimly lit theatre for about 15 minutes, anticipation building, the time for the audience to get seated. ¬†Finally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stepped on stage, the room went dark and the stage lit up, and alongside her were here interpreter, the interviewer, and the second guest, Belgian French author, Marie Darrieussecq. ¬†Darrieussecq published Il Faut Beaucoup Aimer des Hommes in 2013 and won the ¬†Prix M√©dicis¬†the same year. ¬†I’ll definitely be picking her book up at some point. ¬†Its storyline was very intriguing.

The talk seemed to fly by. ¬†We sat through about one hour and a half of questions and answers between both brilliant authors. ¬†It was remarkable to see how the themes touched on were similar in both of their books. ¬†Adichie made some very bold, honest statements that received overall applause, like when she said racism is not just a problem in the United States but also in France. ¬†She also spoke about how readers seem to always expect female characters to be likable, pretty, and acceptable. ¬†She said that shouldn’t be and that it’s rarely required of male characters. ¬†She said what would be the point of women just trying to be likable all the time. ¬†I couldn’t agree more. ¬†She said she wrote Ifemelu to be a character that had plenty of faults but that she thought readers would find interesting. ¬†And interesting, she was. ¬†Adichie also talked about feminism and mentioned how she couldn’t understand why everybody couldn’t be a feminist, since feminism is basically fighting for equality among the sexes. ¬†Another high point of the evening was the interpreters capacity and rapidity in translating Adichie, as well as all the others on stage. ¬†She was surprisingly quick and accurate.

IMG_1269The only disappointing thing about the evening was that Adichie didn’t read from¬†Americanah. ¬†The interviewer read an excerpt in French. ¬†I felt that was really missing, for the interviewer wasn’t capable of putting the correct tone on the words. ¬†Even though on a much brighter note, I had the pleasure of speaking with Adichie and taking a picture with her after waiting for about a half an hour in a pseudo queue. I say pseudo because there was a long line from one side and then there was a half circle surrounding Adichie that never seemed to dissipate. ¬†Frankly, If I were her I would have felt a little claustrophobic.

In the end, I was able to get all three of my books signed, Purple Hibiscus, The thing Around Your Neck, and¬†Americanah. ¬†Adichie was stunning and very poised. ¬†Most of all what amazed me was how she reacted to the crowd. ¬†She was genuinely friendly, listening, and happy to speak with us. ¬†She complimented my hair(that definitely made me smile) and said how much she loved the hairstyles she saw there, being that she’s a lover of natural hair. ¬†All in all it was a very special night that I won’t forget anytime soon…