Such a Fun Age tackles the emotive topics of race, privilege, and class – and its easy to see why it’s been so highly acclaimed.
The story is centred around young black and broke babysitter Emira Tucker, whose boss calls her late into the night to babysit after their house was egged. What Emira didn’t know was that the house was targeted after her boss’ husband made a racist comment live on air as a news anchor. Emira takes little Briar to a shop to keep her entertained, where she is then accused of kidnapping the white toddler. A heated conversation ensues, which is filmed by a fellow shopper, and Emira’s rich white boss comes to the store to back up her story. But this is just the first few chapters which only scratch the surface of the prejudice that people of colour face on a daily basis.
The blurb reads: “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.
“But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.”
The book, written by Kiley Reid, was the fiction book of the month for Waterstones in 2021, was longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020, and shortlisted for the British Book Awards debut book of the year 2021.
Such a Fun Age was inspired by Reid’s experience of being a nanny for a wealthy family – but this is not based on a true story as such. For Reid, the biggest social issue in the novel is that of class – not race, and looks at the different relationships between Emira’s friends, the family she works for, and the stranger in the supermarket that winds up being her boyfriend (and the ex of one of the other characters).
This is such a big-hearted and informative story, exploring the fetishisation of black women and culture, virtue signalling and microaggressions, spotlighting class division. It tackles tropes of the ‘white saviour’, as well as looking at anxiety and emotional labour – which is something the black community have spoken about at length online in recent months. Equally, it explores the tribulations of a woman in her 20s just trying to navigate life and earn a living wage – or risk losing her health insurance.
I read a lot of reviews where readers said they’d struggled to get into the book – and I had a similar experience – but once sucked in, I was totally in awe at Reid’s emotive and captivating writing. There’s some really interesting topics covered in the book, and it definitely offers food for thought.