Such a Fun Age
Author: Kiley Reid
Trigger warnings: Racism, white-savior complex.
Read if: You want a page-turner that comments on contemporary racism and class relationships.
Synopsis: This novel opens when a 25-year-old black babysitter, Emira, is accused of kidnapping the 3-year-old child she babysits. The remainder of the novel explores the aftermath of this event and Emira’s relationships with the family she works for and certain witnesses of the event. There are constant twists and turns as Reid explores race, class, and the intricacies of paid relationships.
Overview: 2.5/5 stars. Reid’s characters are unbelievably complex.
Non-Spoiler Review: This book left me feeling very uncomfortable, and it took me a few days to gather my thoughts. Here’s what I gathered.
First, the grammar was sometimes difficult to navigate and I did not mind at all. This is mainly because Reid tries to codeswitch between older, white, upper class women and young, black, recent college grads. It is very difficult to write two different cultures seamlessly into one book. I think that slowing down the speed of the scenes and adding more description between the dialogue could potentially help the reader understand both cultural codes. I’m excited to see how Reid develops this skill in her following book.
Second, and on to the more critical points, the white characters in the novel have an embarrassing lack of self-awareness. They had little boundaries when interacting with Emira, and develop obsessive behaviors in their relationship with her. They are constantly trying to win her friendship in order to justify that they are “not racist.” Emira’s own autonomy is not accounted for and the white savior complex is palpable. Emira is then left to navigate these relationships on her own and stand up for herself in her own right. Additionally, the white characters have good intentions surrounding their relationship with Emira. However, due to their lack of self-awareness, they ended up overstepping boundaries. While I understand that this dynamic is abundantly common, it was still very uncomfortable to read. It left me wondering what is at stake when we create fictional narratives as a response to experiences we have about race, class, and gender? What biases and stereotypes do we project to the people involved? Is this an effective way to challenge and break down those stereotypes?
All in all, Such a Fun Age is meant to leave the reader questioning. During my research for this book review I found this video where Reid explains that this book was meant to be a commentary on current society. She also wanted the book to show that sometimes characters can have the best intentions and still do things that are not okay.
- Are we justified to write about fictional events that focus on race? In what ways do we project our own biases to the narrative?
- This novel features (very) toxic relationships with racism at their core. Does this help perpetuate or resolve stereotypes?
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