Books: Of Roots and Family Trees

A young first novelist writes a big book about the rules we live by

You don't know her yet, but British novelist Zadie Smith, 24, is such a phenomenon on that side of the Atlantic that she has even reviewed herself. At 21, she scored a reported $400,000, two-book deal on the strength of 100 pages that she churned out while cramming for finals at Cambridge University. That initial effort became White Teeth (Random House; 448 pages; $24.95), a book that has finally made it to the U.S. side of the ocean and that Smith describes in the British arts magazine Butterfly as "the literary equivalent of a hyperactive, ginger-haired, tap-dancing 10-year-old."

But there is...

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