Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age
Kiley Reid
Reviewed by Phil

Emira is celebrating her friend Shaunie’s twenty-sixth birthday when she receives a call from Mrs Chamberlain, the woman for whom she babysits three afternoons a week. It’s late, almost 11pm, she’s dressed for a party, and she’s already had a few drinks. But it’s an emergency, and Mrs Chamberlain is offering double pay. With just a few dollars left in her bank account, and the rent due soon, Emira agrees to look after three-year old Briar until things calm down at the Chamberlain’s house.

Emira takes Briar to the corner convenience store, one of their favorite hangouts. There’s so much to explore, so many smells and colors and shapes to investigate. But it’s late, and Elmira is black and Briar is white, and just what do they think they are doing at this time of night? The security guard confronts Emira and, egged-on by an older white woman, accuses her of kidnapping Briar. The altercation is loud and heated and is only resolved when Mr Chamberlain arrives to sort things out.

And all this in the first few pages. But there’s more. The incident is filmed by another late-night shopper, Kelley Copeland. Kelley offers Emira the video, suggesting it’s worth at least a year of free groceries. Emira is reluctant. For her, this was a private moment of hurt and humiliation. She wants nothing more to do with it. Kelley sends her the video anyway, before showing her he has deleted it from his phone.

Such a Fun Age is a sparkling examination of privilege and race and gender. In exploring the relationship between Emira and Mrs Chamberlain, Reid shines a light on the casual racism that is endemic in our society. But she never lectures. This is a fast-paced and absorbing read. A book for our times.

Such a Fun Age is Kiley Reid’s debut novel. Reid worked for six years looking after the children of wealthy New Yorkers. She was born in Los Angeles and lives in Philadelphia with her husband.