Book of the Month: Such a Fun Age by Keily Reid

Okay I’m going to say it: am I some form of Luddite?  I recently found that I in fact hate reading novels on digital devices. I read all my academic literature on my electronic devices, so imagine my surprise when I really disliked reading a novel on a digital device. It was just annoying, but I didn’t have a choice. It was the only way to get my book from the library.

Notwithstanding, I LOVE the book of this month.

First of all, I found out about this book on twonightstands. I had literally gone to their website a few weeks ago to look for a book to read—one that was not a memoir—and I found this. By the time I was ready to read it, Coronavirus had taken over and all libraries had closed. This meant I could only access an e-book so I read it on a tablet. I know, first world problems. I’m even ashamed to type all of that.



I have to say though that even just reading the synopsis on twonightstands, I was hooked. But now that I have read the book, I made sure not to go back to their own review until I have written this out so I'm not biased. Makes sense? Okay, let's go.

First of all, the story is an A plus through and through. It’s a debut novel by Kiley Reid about race, privilege, and class. It tells the story of a young black girl, Emira (she’s 25 when we first meet her) and her employer, Alix Chamberlain, whose child(ren?) Emira babysits.  Basically, the story begins at an uncomfortable but not unfamiliar (to black folks) night at a grocery store. After an incidence at the Chamberlains, Emira is called in to take their toddler away from the house while they deal with what was going on. Emira takes the child, Briar, to the aforementioned [bougie] grocery store to kill time at night. Unfortunately [but again, not surprising to black people], as a black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at the local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar.  The only reason the security guard approached them in the first place was because a…yeah, you guessed right, white woman who was smiling with them just minutes before, was “concerned” about a black woman with a white child out so late. So yeah, of course, she calls on the security guard. Of course, as this happens, being the 21st century, someone films this altercation. Now I promise that despite this very ominous beginning, the mood picks up quickly.

Thanks to this incident, Alix finally notices her babysitter and well, things take a very interesting turn. Now, Alix is your caricature Instagram hashtag blessed, hashtag boss mom, hashtag working mom influencer. She is white, in her 30s, and the type of liberal who is woke and hella progressive but also...weird? interesting? annoying? Take your pick.  After the incident, completely filled with white guilt, she takes an interest, and almost obsession-like interest in her nanny and decides to “wake the fuck up”. For the rest of the book, we see their relationship unfold and get to really understand both of them and how they relate to folks around them. The author told the story from different points of view—though still in third person. Switching from Emira’s to Alix Chamberlain’s points of view allowed us to better understand each of their perspectives and in turn empathize with them when necessary...but also want to kick their behinds. The brilliant part is how she is able to get you to feel empathy for each of the characters (well, I felt no empathy for Kelley though but that's just me). 

Though, I must admit that I feel like we never really got to know the true Emira. I understand that we are different things to different people and of course, we present differently depending on whether it’s our family or friends or acquaintance or maybe even our boss, but Emira seemed to have this guard that the author never quite let down all through the book. Another confession is that I did not relate to Emira at all. There was something insufferable about her sometimes, and it was NOT the fact that she was aimless and  literally had no idea what to do with her life (been there done that haha). Honestly, I found that part refreshing. I think people are so obsessed with everyone having this grand plan for the future. When sometimes it’s absolutely fine to not know.

Moving on to the themes of this book, which was the best part to to be honest LOL. What makes it truly ingenious was that the themes were not at all forced. Reid wove, rather seamlessly too, the intricacies of race relations especially as it has to do with class, interracial relationships, and OF COURSE, Kelley's irritating virtue signaling.  Look, if there was ever a book that talks about race and class in a fun and easy way, without all the baggage that inherently comes with these topics, this would be it. It was easy, breezy, but also thought provoking. The weird part of the book of this month is that I have an incredible amount to say, but all of it would be spoilers. I just don't know how to talk about the important themes without spoiling it and I don't want to spoil it. It's in fact the type of book perfect for a book-club setting. I really wanted to sit down and have a whole conversation about the book and the character with people but alas, no one I know has read it lol. So please, I truly urge you to read this book. Whether you are black, brown, white, there is SOMETHING for you to learn even in the midst of the humor and lightheartedness. I promise. P.S: I don't think white folks will find it funny at all :-(

The biggest revelation of the book is  as The Atlantic nicely sums up, “…while the white characters fret over what black people think of them and their progressive values, the black characters are busy getting on with their lives and trying to keep up with one another.”

This book is filled with lots and lots of suspense that made it hard to put down. That’s a win, for sure.
Like I alluded to above, apart from the storyline itself,  Reid’s writing is intricate, layered, and very artful. The best part is how easy she makes it look. 

I want to talk a little bit about one fault of the book because nothing is truly perfect. First, sometimes I lost track of the characters. Like I still don't know Alix's friends and their life stories. It just kept going over my head and I suspect this was mostly because I did not have an actual book and could not keep scrolling back and forth.  So that's on me and not the author. I have other so-called faults that I have heard people share online but that I disagree with, so I won't share because I don't want you biased. Sorry Lol. In my defense, these so-called problems did not occur to me AT ALL while reading sooo... Lol. However, now that I have heard it...sigh...I can see how someone would think that.

Anyway, you read it and let me know what you think.

One way or another, you won't regret reading this book.

That's it folks. Another book of the month in the books (pardon the pun ha). See you at the next one.

Love,

I

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