Studying Brent born Zadie Smith at Postgraduate Level

It was the first summer lecture on the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck University 2017. We were discussing how a writer finds and defines their voice and their territory. The set reading was Zadie Smith’s 2007 essay, ‘Fail Better’. The essay eloquently discussed failing honourably in literature and the responsibility of a writer. It seemed to resonate deeply with the entire lecture hall. It was compelling and utterly honest, sending me into a frenzy. I wanted to know who Zadie Smith was. zadie

Turns out Zadie was born in Brent and her first novel White Teeth (1999) was set in Willesden. Smith nurses an intricate kaleidoscope view of London, whereby she embraces and celebrates London’s melting pot of cultures, embodying the city as a ‘state of mind.’ After reading Zadie’s books, one may observe Smith’s storytelling gives special attention to areas reflective of her humble beginning, places that ring the north circular like Wembley, Neasden, Kilburn, Harlesden and her beloved Willesden. Zadie still lives in Brent for half the year and resides in New York for the other. Zadie is often praised for her realism in her writing, much of that stemming from her use of slang or of her realistic portrayal of London through mirroring the streets of Brent. She is clear in her understanding of the needs of her local community, and the characters dwelling through these parts and their potential. Multiculturalism is a solid theme throughout her work, alongside her character as a writer who clearly holds Brent dear.zadie novel

Pop culture podcast SRSLY by the New Statesman discussed the television adaptation of her popular novel NW. The reworking of the 2012 novel was reviewed in link to social mobility, a theme ever present in Brent. The podcast discussed Zadie’s relatability to her characters struggles of ‘getting out’ of social housing, an ideology she to this day feels associated with, but also described as blurred. As an accomplished writer, Zadie may have ‘escaped’ her humble beginnings, yet currently lives in America in what she describes as a place that looks, and feels like a tower block. On the contrary, it lacks the community she once had. The television adaptation was beautifully shot in Kilburn, reflecting the themes of change and movement effectively.

Listen to SRSLY here:

Zadie’s contribution to literature and Brent’s legacy have come hand in hand throughout her career. She steadily employs her fame to shine light on the potential of the area. Her adoration of Kilburn high road is reflected in NW, as well as through her voluntary contributions to the borough. In 2016, Zadie campaigned for children centres in Kilburn, Granville and Carlton. To support the cause, she read extracts from an essay concerning the importance of local services.

zadie 2Zadie discussed the ‘Brent Youth Orchestra’ in her 2011 short story ‘Sweet Charity’ for the New Yorker and reminisces on the Willesden Green bookshop which she strongly believes shaped her writing in The Guardian. She’s also spoke candidly defending Brent Libraries on how they were essential to her growth as a writer and places weight on Willesden libraries importance to her acceptance into the pearly gates of Cambridge University.

Smith is a force to be reckoned with amongst mainstream writers and additionally is a great candidate to reflect the borough of Brent in the mayor Sadiq Khan’s London borough of culture 2020 bid.

#mylocalculture #backbrentsbid


Confidently lost in Sabrina Claudio – About Time Review

sabrinacTwo words came to mind when I heard Sabrina Claudio’s ‘About Time’. Milk and honey. Claudio’s sound is instantly intoxicating, permeating the bridge between her last mix tape Confidently Lost and this wistful tale of love and questioning it.

Twenty one year old singer songwriter Sabrina Claudio releases her second mixtape ‘About Time’ at a period when music’s sensuality has been pushed to the brink. Rather than a hard sell her r’n’b melodies, Sabrina writes eloquently on love, youth, identity and time in a soothing angelic tone accompanied with poetic tempo. Sabrina’s voice can be described as moody, romantic and hypnotising. Her songs are perfect to console sadness but also to renew your view on these themes by blooming, wilting, rotting and starting over.


The young singers’ approach is captivatingly mysterious, in that, her lyrics are somehow depersonalised with more focus on the form of the songs. The simplicity of her lyrics are relaxing, so much so that you may find yourself singing the drawn out notes over and over. The tracks house a gritty bluesy tone, with if possible, even more urgency in her tone when discussing the grand theme of love.

Though only twenty one, Claudio’s lyrics are mature and deeply nostalgic – a personal reason as to why I enjoy her music so much. In her fan favourite track ‘I Belong To You’ she muses  ”take care of me, talk all day then at night fall in deep.” It’s melancholic and its simplicity is free of flaws. ‘Unravel Me’ mirrors an analytical Claudio, one with philosophical predetermined ideas about love and ending it. ”And how my mind is ruptured, wired, and I’m tired of it.” She is strong in her pursuit of ending this relationship, and swears he will never unravel her in any way. The enticing ‘I Wanna Know’ will be the one you hum for days on end. Sabrina questions if her touch is felt as heavenly by this man or ”when you look at me, do the voice of angels start to sing?” She asks the questions some women may never ask, and if the answer is not yes, she proclaims  ”I can’t be in love with you.” Though the album is dreamy and bluesy, there are also a few upbeat tracks like ‘Used To’ , ‘Wait’ and the remix to ‘I Belong to You’ ft 6LACK which are sure to make you hit that repeat button.sc2Many have questioned who Sabrina is directing these songs to, and assume she has been through a lifetime of heartache. She says ”with this album, I have had people saying, “Whoever Sabrina is talking about is done with life. I’m not talking about anyone in particular. I’m a pretty non-romantic person in life. I love to write about love, but I don’t like to love in life. I love my family and friends, but when it comes to men, it’s a tough one.”

Sabrina’s music is delicately crafted with intricate vocal arrangements drawing from an array of genre’s, but amidst this she focuses on a R’n’b smooth sound.  She presents this collection in a beautiful fused form reflecting her Cuban/Puerto-Rican heritage angelically through sound. This voice is magnetic and her sound is uniquely dazzling along with her stunning visuals in her music video.

I watched Gilmore Girls season 5 again and here’s what I learned:


”She interrupts me, wild-eyed, begging for coffee..”- Lukeseason 5

Snuggly autumn theme, extreme coffee drinkers and boutique inns equals happiness in my world. Having watched every episode of Gilmore girls and loving each and every one wholeheartedly, it tends to get hard when going through withdrawals (I often miss Lorelai) to pick which season to watch again. So, when I randomly chose the rose pink box set, with a cup of coffee in tow, I was not ready for my new understanding of these flamboyant characters. There was such trepidation on my end, simply because it felt like forever since I last watched the aftermath of Rory and Deans unspeakable affair, and honestly, I shocked myself with how much I identified with Lorelai this time round. Here’s what I learned:

season 52The first majorly awkward storyline rears its ugly head as Lorelai and Rory argue for the first time and it’s so so bad! Still, it’s even more uncomfortable to watch knowing they will fall out again down the line again. I relived the shock and dismay I felt the first time – the time when Rory decided to ignore the simple fact that Dean was married. I could sympathize the first time round because all I could think was that Rory was young, she was attached and in love with this six foot heartthrob but now, I suddenly acknowledged and understood Lyndsay’s POV! This was clear and obvious. Anyway, I found myself also in agreement with Lorelai’s in that, this was forbidden and I couldn’t shake how mortified I felt at Rory’s awful plan there. I felt it was extremely uncharacteristic of her the first time and this time it just screamed unacceptable.

Lorelai on the other hand begins the season like a new woman! There’s an obvious spring in her step, a kind of contagious bounce making her seem all the more successful, and as gorgeous as ever. She still drinks too much coffee of course (who doesn’t), and she’s still the most fun mother on earth and maybe too polite to Kirk (it hurts sometimes). She’s got a new man now, new business and for the first time not the one with the relationship complications. There’s no doubt that Lorelai puts out fires constantly, but she does her best to avoid them this season at her dismay.

Rory however begins the season painfully, so much so that she’s almost tainted from the start. Portrayed as weak from the jump, she’s seen as stubborn and a definite brat. Not only does she have an affair with a married man (Dean) and fight with her mother, but she then moves on very quickly to her new rich boyfriend Logan. Her role on the Yale Daily News is pivotal this season, cementing her further career choices to becoming Christiane Amanpour, but there are definitely obvious changes in her character due to Logan and the Life and Death Brigade. She really goes to town with the college experience, slowly leaving behind the importance of Dean and Stars Hollow while embracing the halls of Yale and Logan’s lifestyle unequivocally.  Rory’s sweet nature is so darn contagious though, so we learn to forgive and love her all over again while we join her on her new experiences.

logan etcEmily and Richard are acting weirder than ever, their surprising separation cementing their love ironically and we begin to understand them better as single characters rather than an entity. Similarly, we get the opportunity to dote on Zack and Lane, single and as a couple. Christopher appears to have Houdini like qualities and pops up when he is least needed and wanted. Rory’s initial dismissal of his company is intriguing as there was a time when she and Lorelai would have killed to have him in their lives. The lovely Michel and Sookie are so consistent in their friendship to Lorelai, it’s beautiful to watch from the kitchen and lobby of the Inn. Paris is still one of the most well written characters to me; constant in her pursuit to be the best at everything, even during an unlikely attempt at fasting during Ramadan.

em and richI noticed Luke as more attractive than ever too, now a father figure to Rory, so protective it makes you aww unknowingly. He deals with the Gilmores so well, dinner with Emily, golf with Richard and still remains the sweetest guy ever. Having always been team Jess 100%, I opened my eyes this season and realized Uncle Luke was the main man all along. He’s consistent (backwards baseball cap and all), loving and kind and exactly the kind of man Lorelai needed all along. Their almost perfect relationship distressed me this time because I knew it would be over soon (SPOILER ALERT). Amy Sherman-Palladino, I beg of you, make my prediction true! 2016 is Luke and Lorelai’s year, I feel it.

season 56I genuinely enjoyed the unexpected shocks I had forgotten about, the awkward out of the norm relationships I had grown accustomed to made me feel like I had to pause and remind myself what happened last season. Friday night dinners were no longer the same and I suddenly realized, anything could happen and I would still love this show. The simple fact that I can change my opinion of characters from season to season reminded me how timeless Gilmore Girls is. Thank you Stars Hollow, my age old friend.