Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
The debut novel of author Kiley Reid, Such a Fun Age—on its surface—tells the story of two Philadelphia women: Emira, a 25-year-old Black woman working as a babysitter and trying to determine what she wants for her future and Alix, a young White mother and entrepreneur who has enlisted Emira’s services. But when Emira is accused of kidnapping in a grocery store while caring for Alix’s daughter, the author uses this pivotal moment and the events that follow to explore how race, class and privilege wind their way into all of our lives in both subtle and overt ways. On some level, it is a tale as old as this country, examining the politics of Black women caring for White children, the blurred lines that can develop in professional relationships, and the myriad ways money and status divide not just across race, but within it.
I couldn’t put this book down. While it is certainly a complex and layered story, it is also funny, poignant, and page-turning. Looking for more after finishing the novel, I stumbled upon an interview with Reid on The Daily Show that aired in February 2020. When asked by host Trevor Noah why she decided to tell this particular story, Reid responds, “It’s probably because I love awkward moments. I just can’t get enough of them.”
This book is certainly full of awkward moments, many of them small and unspoken but highly relatable. As a well-intentioned White person with my own privileges, I saw myself and my own past missteps in the characters’ actions. The tension present in Emira and Alix’s day-to-day interactions perfectly capture the essence of a uniquely American struggle with race and class. Even the title of the novel can be interpreted as a sarcastic comment about the tense cultural and political time in which we are currently living. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys timely and thought-provoking fiction; Such a Fun Age is a sophisticated and thrilling read. I can’t wait to see what Reid publishes next.