This novel begins with a young black woman, Emira Tucker, is called late at night to look after her wealthy white employer Alix’s daughter. They go to a supermarket and Emira is accused of kidnapping the white toddler. A man, called Kelley records the whole incident and after informing Emira of her rights, the two become very close.
Alix, a female empowerment blogger/brand, is embarrassed by the incident and decides to do everything in her power to get to know Emira better. The narrative flips between the two women and explores their relationship, which, for Alix, quickly becomes an obsession. A surprising connection between the two women soon upsets the balance, which causes both women to rethink everything they know about themselves and each other.
I’ve been debating whether I was going to do this post. In light of everything that’s been going on, my mental health is definitely struggling right now. Those that follow me know that I planned to do this review at the end of May. But, I decided to do an anti-racist reading list instead.
There’s been a lot of posts about non-fiction and fictional books that discuss racism, black history and allyship.
Allyship is an interesting word and it’s something I’ve seen being thrown around a lot recently.
I’m not sure if people actually understand the responsibility that comes with it.
It’s all well good saying ‘I hear you and I stand with you’ but I have to ask, ‘Do you actually hear me?’
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a great novel that, not only portrays the struggles of growing up, but it actually also discusses meticulously liberal racism and the white pursuit of becoming an ally but in a light hearted way.
I’ll be honest, it was weird how Kiley Reid managed to write a novel about a very serious issue but still managed to convey a young black woman trying to find her footing in the world.
Race was more of an issue for the white characters in the novel than it was for the main black protagonist.
When I really try to understand it, I can only conclude that the white characters sought to be allies in order to placate their guilt of overlooking racism for so long, their attempt to become an ‘ally’ becomes overly done and actually comes across as too strong.
Kiley Reid portrays Alix, Emira’s white employer, as having good intentions. She didn’t even recognise when she was showing racist attitudes. I’m still up in the air about her white boyfriend, Kelley. It was a bit weird how they both seemed to be competing for Emira’s attention.
It was like a battle of proving that they were more aware of race than the other and Emira was their way of showing it.
Kinda pathetic really.
I’m not saying they shouldn’t feel guilty. Because they most definitely should. It shouldn’t have taken that particular incident for them to recognise racism was still very prominent in society.
As Emira says to Kelley, “I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like…happens.”
She’s emphasising that this isn’t an isolated incident. Racism has been going on for years.
However, the issue with both Alix and Kelley was that neither one of them actually listened to Emira, which I will emphasise is the first step of being an ‘ally’.
1. Listen to us. Listen to what we’re trying to say. Allow our voices to speak about our experiences and actually take in what we’re saying. Be prepared to learn. Don’t try to undermine us. Don’t try and compare some situation you’ve had with your own. Chances are your experience where someone has made a comment about your hair doesn’t compare to what happens when someone makes a comment about our skin.
2. Do not use your black friends as a way to placate your guilt. Sure, check on them. A lot of us are really struggling mentally with everything that’s going on. But make sure you understand the difference between checking on someone because you genuinely care compared to trying to feel less guilty. We can always tell.
3. This bit is crucial. Once you’ve acknowledged that you’re an ‘ally’, you now need to show up. Prove it. Put in the work. You’ve now accepted the responsibility of making sure that everyone around you is also trying to understand racism and white privilege. Read books. Educate yourself. Teach others. Have uncomfortable conversations.
Being an ally is more than posting a black screen and throwing around a few hashtags.
Side note: I just want to emphasise that it is not the Black community’s job to educate people on racism and how they should be treated. Some Black people don’t mind helping out but there are plenty of books out there to read if you want to understand how racism works in society. Additionally, you have the internet at your disposal.
Anyways, what was most important is that Alix and Kelley became so focused on Emira’s blackness, it was like they didn’t see anything else.
What was funny is that whilst both characters were obsessing over proving their anti-racism to Emira, she was trying to figure out her own life and what she wanted from it.
And this was the real premise of the novel.
As a graduate myself, I found myself relating whole-heartedly to Emira and her indecisiveness. It’s hard to come out of university/college and suddenly, have to work out what it is you want to do.
This particular narrative is about understanding that your journey won’t be similar to those around you. Emira struggled because she didn’t have big ambitions like her friends. She was a nanny to Alix’s kids and she liked her job. Although side note, I wasn’t sure of what to make of the old-fashioned harmful ‘mammy’ stereotype. It was clear it had more of an impact on Emira than anything else.
Regardless, what became clear was that outside pressures were forcing Emira to compare her own journey to everyone else.
Reid emphasises that it’s okay to be content with a 9-5 job. You don’t have to have dreams of being a billionaire. It’s okay to not know what you want to do in your twenties because you’ll eventually figure it out.
Just like Emira did.
So for those that are seeking to be an Ally, I hope you can take some great things from this book and if some of Alix’s actions seem eerily similar, don’t be afraid to check yourself.
And for those twenty-year-olds trying to figure out life.
We are young.
It’s okay, we’ll figure it out one day.
Link to donate to BLM Movement below: https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/