Shaping the Self

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Finding out who you are can take up a lot of time in your life – in fact, it could take your whole life. In Swing Time by Zadie Smith, the narrator seems to be spending her entire life finding her identity and shaping who she is.

From a young age, two brown girls become friends (despite the wishes of the narrator’s mother) with the shared ambition of becoming dancers. The friend, Tracey, has the skill to become a dancer while the narrator doesn’t, as she has flat feet, but she does have a better singing voice than Tracey. As the girls grow older, they begin to grow apart, seeming to seek different goals and find their identity from different things. Where one girl stayed in the same area her whole life yet seems to know exactly who she is, the other girl travels the world and still has yet to figure out who she is.

While a relatively enjoyable read with plenty of beautiful language and social commentary, it moved a bit slowly and didn’t really do much of anything for me – it didn’t evoke any serious emotions or reveal any truths in a memorable fashion. Jumping between the narrator’s past and the present to tell the story, it was a little disorienting at times when there wasn’t much of a transition between the two, but as the narrative progressed, it worked and flowed much better.

Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.

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