by Zadie Smith
Joshua Chalfen is totally the dark horse in White Teeth. Josh is in school with Irie and Millat, and though he is an intellectual (dare we say loveable nerd?) and doesn't cross paths with those two much, he has a crush on Irie.
When Archie helps organize a smoking raid at the school, Irie tries to warn Millat to save him from getting caught, but what happens instead is that Irie, Josh, and Millat all get caught with a burning joint. Josh, who wants desperately to seem cool, tries to take the blame and says the marijuana is his.
While no one really believes this, the principle decides that the best course of action is for Irie and Millat to study at Josh's house. Josh is pumped, but things don't really work out how he imagines they will.
First, his mother Joyce becomes obsessed with Millat, and then Irie starts working for Josh's father. Up until this point, Josh has had a great relationship with his parents, but all this parent-stealing causes him to join a radical animal rights group, FATE, to protest against his father's genetic work.
Through Josh's character, we grow to understand that figuring out who you really are is hard, no matter where you come from—no matter whether you're from a working-class, half-English, half-Jamaican family, or from a middle-class, white, English intellectual family. Identity is complicated, and families are hard to navigate. Even seemingly perfect ones, like the Chalfens.