Such a fun book, honestly. Well, maybe not fun but a great read and one that really promotes a different way of thinking about racism, one that is less overt, not so aggressive – but no less insidious for it. It really made me think and I really appreciated it.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.
25-year-old Emira isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with the rest of her life but for now she’s okay with babysitting part time for Alix Chamberlain and her husband – and of course, little Briar Chamberlain, their inquisitive three-year-old.
Late one evening – when she’s called upon to take Briar at short notice – Emira finds herself at the center of an incident at the local market. Accused by a bigoted customer and treated as suspicious by Security, Emira is forced to defend herself as Briar’s carer. While the situation is completely uncalled for and horrible for our protagonist, she is keen to put it behind her quickly.
But when she starts dating hot white guy Kelley, who just happened to be a witness that night at the store, her life takes an interesting turn. Especially when she learns her new beau used to go out with Alix in high school.
As Alix tries desperately to make it up to Emira – and get to know her as a friend – Kelley reveals all the ways in which Alix’s liberalism is a mask for her racism. When Alix throws the same accusations back at Kelley, it starts to get confusing – and only Emira can decide what to do about both of them. Who’s the real racist here – and what will she do?
Emira is a very relatable character in the sense that she doesn’t know yet what she wants from life. Of course I have no idea what she’s been through – and never could. What I love is that she’s strong and fair – and with the help of her core group of friends – is able to liberate herself of the toxicity. But how is it toxic and why is the question. Could all Alix’s ‘well-intentioned’
interfering helping actually be racism wrapped up in a shiny bow? And what does it mean when Kelley only dates Black girls?
Like I said in my intro, racism isn’t always black and white (well, I mean it is – but there are shades of grey and this illustrates that beautifully). While Alix may consider Emira ‘part of the family’, she is still a member of staff called upon to do the mothering she can’t be bothered to do herself, just because her eldest child is difficult. And Kelley’s appreciation of Black culture – of his Black friends, Black women – it’s fetishism, isn’t it? And that harms people too.
This story left me with a lot to think about and I really appreciate it’s take on white privilege. The writing itself is wonderful and honestly, there are times my sympathies switched over to Alix, who just seems so pathetic and sad. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to be a character who will learn from her mistakes.