Rabi-I 1442 Book Club Pick — A Review & A Discussion
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Bismillahi ar-rahmani ar-rahim
Assalamu aleikum waramatulahi wabarakatuhu everyone!
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is a modern day The Help kind of tale. I strongly believe that since I have read the latter as well. The story in Such a Fun Age revolves around Emira Tucker, a dark shade of Black skin twenty-five-year old African American woman who babysits for a white family; the Chamberlains. Emira is a college graduate but she hasn’t figured out what she wants to do for the rest of her life yet. However, she is good with children and can type really fast. She is a very chill person, who doesn’t pry in others’ affairs and is comfortable with her low-key level of lifestyle; minimal and steady.
The book starts off with Emira celebrating her birthday with her friends during her time off when her boss, Alix Chamberlain calls her late in the night to ask her to come work because of an emergency. While Emira wants to decline the offer and knows she is ill-dressed—she is dressed for party—to go work, she needs the money.
Then, things get testy when our protagonist takes Briar, Alix’s daughter, to a nearby rich grocery store to pass time while her employers resolve their issues. Things get so because two white shoppers who at first had acted friendly with Emira and her friend Zahra who is a nurse, report the trio unbeknownst to them that they may have kidnapped a white child since they are playing and dancing to loud music in front of two-year old Briar. Since Emira is not wearing a “uniform”; a sign of ownership to people who still have slave mentality without realizing it, the odds are against her and her friend. Another bystander films the exchange while Emira gets in a loudmouth context with the grocery cop in the hopes of defending herself. And as a reader, Reid keeps the reader at the edge of their seats during this tense moment.
Will this turn sour for Emira? Will she get shot as customary with many Blacks who encounter the police while trying to assert their rights in the face of uncalled for scrutiny. Will she go viral? Will her video be the final one that finally challenges the status quo like George Floyd’s? Or will the whole ordeal never make it to the media either for privacy or because of another sinister motive. That, you will have to read/listen to it to find out.
Such a Fun Age also delves in the subtle racism like uttering without thinking racist remarks and thinking there are a joke and the other two faces of the same racism coin; the white woman who still uses Blacks to babysit her children and require a uniform upon such "helps" and the white man who only has Black friends and goes out of his way to only date Black women; but most often ambiguously Black ones. Most of these Black Enough women, he likes to dub them “Queen.” As a parenthesis, Emira also means Queen in Arabic. I applaud the genius of Reid for picking this name for the protagonist. It achieves the purpose of saying many things without really saying them. Both sides—the white man and white woman— wanting to control and disguise that control as love and care. These are called fetishism and narcissism.
Furthermore, Emira loves, loves, loves Briar. It’s hard breaking to see their relationship end. This part is also very reminiscing of The Help with the character of Aibileen Clark who moves on before the babies she tends to turn just like their Mamas. Or they could turn out like Skeeter. Briar is messy and also reminds the reader of that baby that Aibileen gave the motivational speech of “You is Smart, You is Kind, You is Important” to. There is also that “Hilly” moment where “Alix” loses face too.
Overall, Such a Fun Age is a timely reminder that Black stories can still educate without always ending tragically and Black authors can tell their own stories. There is power in winning not only in pain. Finally, the book is also a reminder that money corrupts and has corrupted many Blacks into turning their backs on their own people.
The Short Discussion...
What are your thoughts on the book overall?
PF: Aside the thoughts shared in the review, I loved the wittiness of the author and the modern-day plantation vibe the book shun the light one. Now, at times at I felt like the author was saying that people with ambitions are sell out and I didn't quite agree with the subtle opinion. Emira while being a strong character is also a bit too laid back or mellow in my opinion.
Other Reader 1: It was a fast read with a lot of hidden messages. Don't be fooled by the cover. The book deals well with explaining the nuance between being a savior and an ally.
OR2: It was an entertaining and surprising read but I didn't connect with the characters as much as I wanted. I gave it a-three-star. Alix is very manipulative, and I will stop there since I don't to give too much away.
OR3: The book was a-5-star for me, and I loved that the author showed that all RACISTS are not bad people. Some might come off kind and have empathy.
Thank you for tuning in and reading. Dear Readers & Members, see you in
Rabi-II 1442 AH insha'Allah.
Our Usual Book Club Questions Are:
1. What did you like most?
2. What gave you pause?
3. What didn't you like?
4. What are your other thoughts?
5. What question (s) do you have for the author(s)?
6. What questions about the book(s) do you have for the moderator or other members of the discussion(s)?
We look forward to hearing from you.
G E T I N T O U C H !
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Until next time, subhanaka Allahumma wa-bihamdika ash-hadu anla ilaha illa anta as-taghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka. (O Allah, You are free from every imperfection; praise be to You. I testify that there is no true god except You; I ask Your Pardon and turn to You in repentance.) Aameen.
The Fofky's Book Club