Words: Ali Iannattone
Kiley Reid was born in Los Angeles, California in 1987 but moved to Tucson, Arizona at age seven. She attended the University of Arizona and Marymount Manhattan College before pursuing an MFA at the University of Iowa.
It was during the period of her MFA studies that she wrote ‘Such A Fun Age’, stricken by the deaths of Freddie Gray and Philando Castile at the hands of the American police force in 2015 and 2016 respectively. However, Reid said her aim with ‘Such A Fun Age’ was to explore “instances of racial biases that don’t end in violence as a way of highlighting those moments that we don’t see on the news but still exist every day.”
Such A Fun Age is Kiley Reid’s searing debut novel published in 2019, getting longlisted for the Booker Prize the year after.
Her novel opens with Emira Tucker; a young black woman walking the aisles of a high-end supermarket with Briar, the two-year-old girl she babysits, when a security guard stops her and accuses her of kidnapping the child. While Emira is enraged and embarrassed by this public accusation – which results in a crowd forming around them and ends with two-year-old Briar’s father showing up to resolve things – she decides it’s best to not do anything about it and move on.
The thought isn’t shared by Briar’s mother Alix Chamberlain, a confident woman whose main goal is to further her career and help other women further theirs too. She is furious at the event that took place at the supermarket and wants to help Emira seek justice at all costs.
Broke and worried about the future, she depends on this job for an income but isn’t convinced by Alix’s efforts at justice. It seems that her employer’s efforts become more and more concealed by the shadow for performative activism as she seeks ‘justice’ on her own terms and without listening to Emira at all.
‘Such A Fun Age’ becomes a much-needed social commentary on transactional relationships and the racial abuse that isn’t talked about by the media, while also portraying the growing pains of the 20s and hardships that come with them. One of the most relevant coming-of-age stories of our time.
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