Such a Fun Age (2019) by Kiley Reid, her debut novel, is a complicated coming of age story. The plot is full of millennial concerns, childhood joys, racial tensions and feminist challenges. The story centers around two women, a babysitter and the mother of the babysitting charge. Emira, a 25 year old black woman, works as a part-time babysitter and typist, while trying to figure out how to have an adult life, preferably with health benefits. Emira babysits three-year-old Briar, the child of Alix, a white woman who has recently moved to Philadelphia for her husband’s career while putting her own on the back burner. Alix asks Emira to take Briar out of the house late at night while Alix deals with an issue at home. Emira takes the child to a grocery store, where a white customer contacts security about her, a black woman out with a white child late at night. The heart of the book comes next, the reactions and repercussions of this main event. While a lot is going on in this book, it reads smoothly and eloquently with beautifully drawn characters. Really a page turner while the reader considers the double meaning of “such a fun age;” the idyllic early childhood time and the poignant early adult years.
For more information about this new author, read this interview with her. For a rigorous dive into black authors, here is a possible reading list. Read-alikes for this novel include Little Fires Everywhere, Queenie, That Kind of Mother and Another Brooklyn. All of these books are contemporary character-driven novels with story lines linked to race, adulthood and motherhood.