Welcome to The Grown-Up Girls Report book club! We are now into our 8th book – haven’t we done well? I am not sure it is Guinness World Record status but in my eyes it is quite the achievement!
If you have just found us – then welcome!! Always great to have some new friends on board. Our plan is to read a book a week until the end of June! Yes – it’s a big commitment – so please just read what you can when you can – don’t get psyched out!!
Our book of the week is Such A Fun Age by American author Kiley Reid and I am lucky enough to have my fab ‘editor friend’ Julie ‘Jules’ Collard join me to workshop this thought provoking book.
Why Alex & Jules chose it
Full disclosure – Jules already had the book at home – and when you are reading a book a week – it’s important to keep it real!
Alex was intrigued by the book as it was described by the author Kiley Reid as ‘a comedy of good intentions’.
It taps into some of the themes we have discussed before – particularly the age old question of whether we can connect across barriers of race, gender, wealth and privilege. Sally Rooney’s Normal People explored similar themes.
It has spent some time on The New York Times Best Seller list and is currently being adapted into a screenplay. The film and television rights have also recently been sold – so watch this space!
About the Author
Kiley Reid initially studied to be an actor before turning her hand at writing. While she was studying, she spent six caring for the children of wealthy Manhattanites – clearly one of her inspirations for the novel.
Such A Fun Age is her first novel and already has many literary experts wondering whether she may become the next Sally Rooney. Her ability to ‘nail’ millenial issues and tell the story of this generation is certainly creating a buzz.
When the novel was first released, she was asked by many interviewers about whether the story of the main character Emira was based on her own. She explained that in fact her background was more like that of Alix, the mother that Emira works for. She grew up in a wealthy family with parents who valued education and is very aware of per privilege.
She is intrigued by the concept of emotional labour – where people provide love in return for money. In many interviews, she cites the work of American psychologist Harry Harlow who did a lot of work on maternal separation in the 1950’s and 1960’s with monkeys. Harlow’s work showed that baby monkeys preferred the comfort of a substitute mother who was wearing terry cloth instead of wire, even if the wire mother dispensed milk. Showing that love is more important than food!
While the story of Emira, an African American women in her 20’s, to find a secure job is at the heart of the novel, Reid says she doesn’t like ‘issues books … at the same time, I’m not interested in reading or writing anything that doesn’t comment on the world we live in’.
About The Story
The story centres on two women: Emira – a 25 year old African American babysitter and her quest to find a full-time job with health insurance and ’30 something’ white, lifestyle blogger Alix Chamberlain.
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, Alix calls her babysitter Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
Why You Should Read It
The Atlantic newspaper described the book as a satire ‘of the white pursuit of wokeness’. If you aren’t familiar with this term then you definitely need to read this book.
The book is very much about racial and class inequality but it is not a heavy read. Reid does a great job of working in her narrative around these topics within a humorous and very likeable storyline.
The book is also a critique of ‘white saviours’ however Reid doesn’t let her characters fall into one-dimensional stereotypes. It is so much more than just a discussion around race – it explores motherhood, friendship and the responsibilities around childcare.
You’ll love the characters! Reid does a terrific job of developing three dimensional characters that you’ll feel like you know. Whether it’s lifestyle blogger Alix, confused millenial Emira, distracted and disengaged Peter Chamberlain or the adorable and demanding 2 year old Briar – you’ll feel that you have really got to understand their unique perspectives and their priorities.
This is a great read that will really get you thinking about your perspectives on race and class. It may also make you more aware of the inherent biases that many of us often have without knowing.
Alex and Jules really enjoyed this book. It didn’t make them cry – but it made then think! Definitely recommend!
You can listen to the podcast via your favourite podcast app, or by clicking on the link below.
Thanks so much for being part of the book club!