January 07

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Everything about this book seems light and breezy.  What, with its throwaway title, cute cover and offbeat dialogue, you’d expect to find it atop a discount pile at an airport bookshop, not on the Booker prize longlist. But maybe that’s the point.

Such a Fun Age is about racism and class, told through the story of a black, Uni student/babysitter (Emira), her white, ambitious, yummy mummy boss (Alix) and her (Emira’s, not Alix’s) white, handsome boyfriend (Kelley).

The story takes a little while to reveal itself, but by about half way through, Emira finds herself stuck between these two well-meaning white people battling it out to prove who is less racist…all to “protect” Emira of course.

It is set in Philadelphia and kicks off with an incident at an upmarket supermarket where a white security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping the child she is looking after. The incident is filmed and it becomes clear that almost everyone is more pre-occupied by the effect of this racism on Emira than Emira herself. 

This is US author Kiley Reid’s first novel and that’s just one of the reasons I chose to review it. I’m in the market for some fresh voices and styles and have committed to only reading first novels for the next six months.  So far so good.  From the very outset, Reid set me up to stereotype but then challenged me to look more closely and then think again.  Not just about racism, but also nuanced perspectives on friendships, parenting, careers and dating.

So as I kick off my reading list for 2021, this is a cheesy reminder not to judge a book by it’s cover.

And that’s my 2 cents worth.