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Such a Fun Age
Cover of Such a Fun Age
Such a Fun Age
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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A REESE'S BOOK CLUB x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK PICK
"The most provocative page-turner of the year." —Entertainment Weekly
"I urge you to read Such a Fun Age." —NPR
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 BOOKER PRIZE
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A REESE'S BOOK CLUB x HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK PICK
"The most provocative page-turner of the year." —Entertainment Weekly
"I urge you to read Such a Fun Age." —NPR
A striking and surprising debut novel from an exhilarating new voice, Such a Fun Age is a page-turning and big-hearted story about race and privilege, set around a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both.

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone "family," and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book That night, when Mrs. Chamberlain called, Emira could only piece together the words ". . . take Briar somewhere . . ." and ". . . pay you double."

    In a crowded apartment and across from someone screaming "That's my song!," Emira stood next to her girlfriends Zara, Josefa, and Shaunie. It was a Saturday night in September, and there was a little over an hour left of Shaunie's twenty- sixth birthday. Emira turned the volume up on her phone and asked Mrs. Chamberlain to say it again.

    "Is there any way you can take Briar to the grocery store for a bit?" Mrs. Chamberlain said. "I'm so sorry to call. I know it's late."

    It was almost astonishing that Emira's daily babysitting job (a place of pricey onesies, colorful stacking toys, baby wipes, and sectioned dinner plates) could interrupt her current nighttime state (loud music, bodycon dresses, lip liner, and red Solo cups). But here was Mrs. Chamberlain, at 10:51 p.m., waiting for Emira to say yes. Under the veil of two strong mixed drinks, the intersection of these spaces almost seemed funny, but what wasn't funny was Emira's current bank balance: a total of seventy-nine dollars and sixteen cents. After a night of twenty-dollar entrées, birthday shots, and collective gifts for the birthday girl, Emira Tucker could really use the cash.

    "Hang on," she said. She set her drink down on a low coffee table and stuck her middle finger into her other ear. "You want me to take Briar right now?"

    On the other side of the table, Shaunie placed her head on Josefa's shoulder and slurred, "Does this mean I'm old now? Is twenty-six old?" Josefa pushed her off and said, "Shaunie, don't start." Next to Emira, Zara untwisted her bra strap. She made a disgusted face in Emira's direction and mouthed, Eww, is that your boss?

    "Peter accidentally—we had an incident with a broken window and . . . I just need to get Briar out of the house." Mrs. Chamberlain's voice was calm and strangely articulate as if she were delivering a baby and saying, Okay, mom, it's time to push. "I'm so sorry to call you this late," she said. "I just don't want her to see the police."

    "Oh wow. Okay, but, Mrs. Chamberlain?" Emira sat down at the edge of a couch. Two girls started dancing on the other side of the armrest. The front door of Shaunie's apartment opened to Emira's left, and four guys came in yelling, "Ayyeee!"

    "Jesus," Zara said. "All these niggas tryna stunt."

    "I don't exactly look like a babysitter right now," Emira warned. "I'm at a friend's birthday." "Oh God. I'm so sorry. You should stay—"

    "No no, it's not like that," Emira said louder. "I can leave. I'm just letting you know that I'm in heels and I've like . . . had a drink or two. Is that okay?"

    Baby Catherine, the youngest Chamberlain at five months old, wailed in the receiver. Mrs. Chamberlain said, "Peter, can you please take her?" and then, up close, "Emira, I don't care what you look like. I'll pay for your cab here and your cab home."

    Emira slipped her phone into the pouch of her crossbody bag, making sure all of her other belongings were present. When she stood and relayed the news of her early departure to her girlfriends, Josefa said, "You're leaving to babysit? Are you fucking kidding me?"

    "Guys . . . listen. No one needs to babysit me," Shaunie informed the group. One of her eyes was open and the other was trying very hard to match.

    Josefa wasn't through asking questions. "What kind of mom asks you to babysit this late?"

    Emira didn't feel like getting into specifics. "I need the cash," she said. She knew it was highly unlikely, but she added, "I'll come back if...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 2, 2019
    In her debut, Reid crafts a nuanced portrait of a young black woman struggling to define herself apart from the white people in her life who are all too ready to speak and act on her behalf. Emira Tucker knows that the one thing she’s unequivocally good at is taking care of children, specifically the two young daughters, Briar and Catherine, of her part-time employer, Alix Chamberlain. However, about to turn 26 and lose her parents’ health insurance, and while watching her friends snatch up serious boyfriends and enviable promotions, Temple grad Emira starts to feel ashamed about “still” babysitting. This humiliation is stoked after she’s harassed by security personnel at an upscale Philadelphia grocery store where she’d taken three-year-old Briar. Emira later develops a romantic relationship with Kelley, the young white man who captured cellphone video of the altercation, only to discover that Kelley and Alix have a shared and uncomfortable past, one that traps Emira in the middle despite assertions that everyone has her best interests at heart. Reid excels at depicting subtle variations and manifestations of self-doubt, and astutely illustrates how, when coupled with unrecognized white privilege, this emotional and professional insecurity can result in unintended—as well as willfully unseen—consequences. This is an impressive, memorable first outing. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME Entertainment.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from November 1, 2019
    The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications. Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she'll never get anywhere on the book she's writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira's family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she's about to get kicked off her parents' health insurance, she's happy with her part-time gigs--and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart--Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix's combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid's debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details--food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.--and she's a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend-speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there's a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things--ha ha--very black and white. Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    November 1, 2019
    Emira is an educated, Black, 25-year-old babysitter partying late one night when she gets a frantic call to babysit at the last minute. In high heels and a miniskirt, she brings the white toddler along to an upscale grocery store, where she is confronted by a security guard who accuses her of kidnapping the child. Kelley, a concerned white bystander, films the altercation, which leaves Emira shaken. He emails her the video clip, but Emira is not interested in sharing it with anyone. Her white employer, Alix Chamberlain, is a successful and influential mompreneur who overcompensates for the incident and handles Emira with kid gloves. Meanwhile, Emira starts dating Kelley, who, unbeknownst to her, had a traumatic romance with Alix many years ago. Tensions mount amidst unresolved pain between Kelley and Alix, and Emira's discontent with her life and how sharply it contrasts with that of her employer. In her smart and timely debut, Reid has her finger solidly on the pulse of the pressures and ironies inherent in social media, privilege, modern parenting, racial tension, and political correctness.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 1, 2019

    DEBUT Say you're a white, professional woman in the midst of a late-evening crisis. Would you call your African American babysitter, catching her at a friend's birthday party, and ask her to come tend to your toddler? Say you're that African American babysitter. After taking your charge to the local market, wouldn't you be annoyed, then humiliated, then downright scared and angry when a security guard accuses you of kidnapping? Say you're that white woman, wanting to right this wrong, and giving the sitter a raise or an edible arrangement isn't quite the right path. Would you go crusading with self-righteous, even self-serving zeal, not really checking in with what your babysitter wants or needs? If you were that babysitter, what would be your next move? Especially if you loved that toddler and thought you were good at your job? Aren't you curious to find out how put-upon Emira deals with her clueless brand-marketer boss? VERDICT In her debut novel, Reid illuminates difficult truths about race, society, and power with a fresh, light hand. We're all familiar with the phrases white privilege and race relations, but rarely has a book vivified these terms in such a lucid, absorbing, graceful, forceful, but unforced way. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/19.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2019

    In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American 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.

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Kiley Reid
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