Friday, July 31, 2020

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Such A Fun Age
by Kiley Reid
Read by
Published December 2019 by Penguin Publishing Group
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. 

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

My Thoughts:
I've been reading a lot of tough books lately about what it means to be black in the United States and I've grown to expect violence that is hard to read. So when the store security guard begins questioning Emira, I was braced for the worst. But this isn't that kind of book. Instead, Reid takes a look at the question of race through the lens of a coming-of-age story in a satirical look at race and class. 

Peter and Alix (pronounced A-leaks because Alex wasn't right for the kind of person she wanted to be) are an upper middle-class white couple who like to believe they are liberal folks. That is until Peter, who works for the local NPR station, says something on air that results in their house being egged. Then Emira is confronted at the grocery story and Alix worries that Emira might sue them or, even worse, quit. So you'll pardon the reader who doesn't quite buy into her vow to "wake the f*&^ up." While she sneaks peeks at Emira's phone and Googles things like "Is Childish Gambino a person or a band?," she tries to find ways to work things into their conversations that will make her look cool to Emira, like that she has a black friend. 

Alix is not a good person. But then, no one in this book is entirely likable or admirable. Emira is a 25-year-old college graduate who works part-time as a baby-sitter. I mean, she's truly good at it and you can't help but hope that she will finally find her way. But before she gets there, things are going to get really uncomfortable and we're all going to have to confront some uncomfortable truths. 

A couple of minor issues with the book: Briar, the Chamberlain's daughter, is a precocious, kind of odd little girl and Reid sometimes has her saying things that seem too old or out of place in the story. Also, I occasionally felt like Alix was a bit too much of a caricature (although I also recognize that there are probably women just like her out there). Small things in an otherwise impressive debut. Once again, a new author has me looking forward to what they'll do next. 

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