Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
Going into Such a Fun Age, I knew two things. First, that it was incredibly, incredibly hyped. And second, that it had something to do with race. I assumed, given the title, that it also had something to do with a toddler, because whenever someone says, “that’s such a fun age!” they’re always talking about toddlers. (Clearly I did not read the synopsis, or I would have seen it right there.)
This book is somehow a light, fun read about a bunch of interesting characters and an incredibly important, well-written commentary on the white savior complex and performative allyship. It all begins when Emira, a Black woman who babysits for a rich white couple, is called in late one night to watch the couple’s three-year-old amid a crisis. She’s been out at a party, she’s been drinking a little bit, and she’s not dressed like a normal babysitter, but her boss doesn’t care. She just wants Briar out of the house. So Emira arrives, whisks Briar away to a grocery store (one of her current favorite places), and attempts to distract her until it’s safer to go home. All is fine and good until a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, a bystander captures the incident on camera, and everything begins to change.
There are so many levels to this book that I’m not entirely sure where to start. On the surface, we have the blatant racism that led to the accusation against Emira. Everyone agrees that this is wrong. But there are also much subtler incidents of racism in this book as well as people trying so hard to prove that they’re not racist that they end up doing some pretty questionable things. Reid is not afraid to call out people who try to prove that they’re not racist by having the “correct” number of Black friends. She’s not afraid to comment on the use of the N-word by non-Black people. She shows, rather than tells us, how awkward and inappropriate it is to “save” someone who doesn’t need or want saving. And aside from discussions of race, there’s also a great commentary on parenting in this book! Emira’s boss, Alix, treats her two children very differently. While she dotes over her infant daughter, she constantly brushes Briar off on Emira. It’s so heartbreaking to read about her different reactions to Briar and Catherine, and very telling, I think, that she never really leaves Catherine with Emira. There’s also a discussion of Alix’s past and how it’s shaped her into this person who needs to prove that she’s not racist. All in all, there’s a lot going on in this book, but in a really good way.
There were two things that kept me from giving this book five stars, one big and one small. The small thing is that I felt some of the dialogue could have been tightened up. There are some conversations that seem to go on forever when they really don’t need to. The big thing was the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but it just felt… over the top. I’m not sure that such a dramatic ending was really necessary, but I also can’t think of a better way to have ended it, so it’s still a four-star read.
Side note: I will protect Briar at all costs. That girl is perfect and her random comments were my favorite part of this book.
Have you read Such a Fun Age? Is it on your TBR?
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