Nia Forrester's Reviews > Such a Fun Age

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
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really liked it
bookshelves: black-experience, chick-lit, difficult-or-taboo-subject, light-reading, race

This was a fun read, that covered some heavy subject matter with a light touch. Despite some of my quibbles (which I'll describe below) I enjoyed it, mostly because of how the author examined the peculiarly intimate, yet still distant relationship between some white women and the Black women who care for their children. It's an intriguing and under-examined facet of America--how legions of women of color help raise the very same white children who often go on to adulthood and mindlessly benefit from a system that often operates to keep many people of color in positions of service, or even subservience. There were several excellent moments of insight and humor that made me appreciate the novel, and which definitely kept me reading and wanting to know what happened next. And I especially liked the inclusion of the relationship between the protagonist Emira (who is Black), and her boyfriend, Kelley (who is white), which provided great opportunities for the author to show the complications that can ensue when sexual and racial politics intertwine. Through Emira and Kelley, we start to wonder: where is the line between a preference for dating (and socializing with) people of a different race than your own, and fetishization? And through the relationship between Emira and Alix (the mother of the child Emira babysits for) we see how Black women can be objectified and commoditized in many ways, not just sexually.

I did, however, think the themes were much more interesting than the characters. Emira was, I imagine, supposed to be an Every Girl kind of character: young, somewhat directionless, figuring out who she was. But she wasn't particularly endearing, and I didn't really care if she got what she wanted, or changed, or grew. Likewise, her multicultural group of friends, who for the most part seemed like caricatures of young women of color. I cringed at the dialogue a few times, and often wondered whether the book might be satire, even though not billed as such because the way they were portrayed was occasionally a little over-the-top. There were some authentic moments, but often, it felt like an amplification or over-concentration of "Black-Girl-isms" peppering the dialogue to remind the reader that, 'psst! They're not white!'

But that treatment was not limited to the women of color. Alix Chamberlain (the women Emira works for) seemed to be an amalgamation of every terrible suspicion that Black women harbor about white women, their motives, and their modus operandi for getting ahead and getting what they want in the world. Still, one of the most interesting things about this book for me was that Alix seemed centered in a way I did not expect. It's unfair, I admit, but given that the author is a Black woman, I was surprised to feel that she (the author) knew and explored the main white character with more depth and intimacy than she did the Black main protagonist. Though the book begins and ends with her point-of-view, giving the impression that this is primarily Emira's story, Emira felt to me, in some ways, like an object lesson for the folks at whom this book felt directed, which I keep seeing as predominantly white women.

Ultimately, this was an enjoyable read. It presents issues and raises questions that--for those who don't already know--will make the book enlightening. And those who do know will be certainly be entertained. Recommended.
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Reading Progress

December 30, 2019 – Shelved
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 10, 2020 – Started Reading
February 11, 2020 –
5.0% "Just started. So far, entertaining."
February 12, 2020 –
20.0% "So far, I'm interested and entertained though not blown away."
February 13, 2020 –
55.0% "So far, this is a fun and often very funny read. It has a madcap quality that I kinda like, but the reviews of this one are right in one way, the dialogue does very little to move things along in terms of character or plot. And the Black women who are Emira's friends are like the cast of the 'Real Housewives of Some Predominantly Black City' rather than three-dimensional people. Their dialogue is especially cringey."
February 14, 2020 – Shelved as: black-experience
February 14, 2020 – Shelved as: chick-lit
February 14, 2020 – Shelved as: difficult-or-taboo-subject
February 14, 2020 – Shelved as: light-reading
February 14, 2020 – Shelved as: race
February 14, 2020 – Finished Reading

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