House3
CLOSE
MENUCLOSE

Zadie Smith’s ‘Swing Time’ Is A Perfect Book For Our Times

books
Photo courtesy of Penguin Books

She confronts colorism and cultural boundaries

It's been a while since I read a book that I couldn't put down, but as soon as I started Zadie Smith's Swing Time, I felt an immediate sense of solidarity with the characters and found myself completely immersed. The novel follows the loosely intertwined lives of the narrator (who remains unnamed) and her childhood friend Tracey—both brown girls from Northwest London. They become infatuated with each other at a young age when they meet during a ballet class and are inseparable despite the intervention of their parents who don't quite see eye to eye on the way of the world—i.e. matters of class and status. As the girls grow up, they inevitably take different paths, and the distance between them gradually expands. 

Even though the story runs 464 pages deep, it's one of those books that had me breezing along. The writing is sharp with colorful descriptions and clever dialogue. The emphasis on slang terms will make you chuckle when appropriate, and the vivid references to black musical culture bring the work to life. Readers essentially grow up with the narrator as she reflects on her youth and details the future she's set to live. While Tracey and the narrator are the same shade, their experiences as black women contrast greatly from one another—Tracey is raised by a single mother in a broken home, while the narrator's parents are devoted to turning her into an upstanding, clever girl and have very traditional goals for their daughter, who never quite feels like she fits into her surroundings. This feeling of displacement continues when the narrator transplants herself as an adult to West Africa for work, where she is exposed to a culture that is still foreign to her, despite now being surrounded by people who look like her. She struggles to connect, again unable to relate to a culture that is not her own. 

While I know that the plot of a novel shouldn't be taken personally, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to my own childhood. Initially, I thought that my history as a ballerina for nearly 14 years of my life would be the only thing I had in common with the narrator. Upon further reflection, I realized that the narrator's sense of the world around her is what clearly defines us both. A few hours after I finished reading the book, I sat down for lunch with my mother. We wound up discussing my childhood, and she started telling me about how she always noticed how hyper-aware I was at an early age. As I came clean to my mother about the racism I silently dealt with as a child, bringing up scenarios where I felt like an outcast in the presence of black peers and endangered in predominately white spaces, I realized that I am still trying to unpackage this reality as an adult. Throughout the novel, the narrator too picks up on many microaggressions, though she also denies her own guilt when it comes to harshly judging others based on factors like race and class, thus failing to see where she has succumbed to the same affectations as many of her oppressors. At least, though, she learns something from her mistakes, something not all people do.

What really hit home for me was watching the narrator see the deterioration of her parent's marriage, which taints her own perception of love and affects how she goes about pursuing intimate relationships. For many of us, the path to better understanding your parents can be complicated. Not everyone even cares to learn about who their parents were before they were born. But it's important that we do because it humanizes these people who have made mistakes and sacrifices, all contributing to who their children grow up to be. And then there's the inevitable shift in power as we go from depending on them for everything up until, to a certain point, them depending on us for the remainder of their survival. If we haven't figured out where it is we came from by the time we're fully on our own, we won't know where it is we need to go.

Swing Time is an essential social commentary on modern life as a black woman. For me, it was a reminder that I need to take complete control and be in charge of my own life. The narrator reminds us that no matter how perfect your life's plan may be, it won't always work out how you think it will. Fulfillment has to come from within in order for real happiness to be achieved. 

This book has arrived in the wake of U.K.'s Brexit and the Donald Trump presidency, two moments in history that have very much shaken the world to its core. People of color are looking for different ways to cope, and I think that this book might provide them with some form of comfort. Zadie Smith reminds us that while we won't always want—or even be able—to stay on the path we've laid out for ourselves, we simply need to remember our starting point and work toward finding the best final destination possible.

Swing Time is available to order now via Penguin Books on Amazon.

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

True
FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

True
Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.

True
Asset 7
MORE in VIDEO
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

True
Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


True