One of 2020’s standout novels for me, Kiley Reid’s terrific debut gives barbed commentary on problematic race relations and self-congratulatory white feminism. Such A Fun Age brilliantly eviscerates”woke” culture and lays bare the duplicity that lies beneath. This makes it a fantastic book club pick as it addresses timely themes both on and off-line and questions prevalent norms that are in vogue. In this comprehensive reading guide, you will find ten Such A Fun Age book club questions, a summary, and recommended further reading.
Such A Fun Age Summary
*Note that this summary contains spoilers*
The plot revolves around Emira, a young black babysitter working for a privileged blogger turned entrepreneur, Alix Chamberlain, and her husband who is a news anchor. At the beginning of the novel, Emira takes the toddler she babysits to the local upscale supermarket. Seeing a white kid with a black girl immediately piques the curiosity (and racism!) of the security guard, who accuses Emira of kidnapping the child. A stand-off ensues which is captured on film by a curious bystander and which eventually becomes a viral clip online. This sets in motion a series of events that will have long-term consequences for both Emira and Alix.
The narration is shrewd yet caustically funny which ensures that while the writing makes you ponder how rampant casual racism is, it never gets preachy. Alix is a social media mogul who has her fingers on the pulse of everything that is on trend. However, her carefully curated persona conceals her deep-rooted biases and nagging insecurities. Reid gives us a peek behind the filtered life of a savvy blogger who seemingly has a picture perfect life. While problematic race relations form the crux of the plot, other key themes of the story are new motherhood and female friendships. Such A Fun Age addresses these issues with nuanced insight.
Emira’s character will resonate with woman of color who are in their mid-20s yet have not found their feet in their chosen career. Watching her friends around her get promoted and prosper in their professional fields makes Emira feel inadequate. Meanwhile, being a new mom has impacted Alix’s relationship dynamics with her close friends. When her husband makes an off-color racist remark while on-air, a mortified Alix tries to make amends by making friendly overtures to her black babysitter. Alix overcompensates by inserting herself forcefully into Emira’s life, a plan which eventually backfires after a chance coincidence reveals a surprising connection between Alix and Emira’s lives.
Exuberant narration and astute commentary on timely topics makes Such A Fun Age a compulsively readable novel.
Such A Fun Age Book Club Questions
- The opening scene at the supermarket was a smart way for the writer to illustrate everyday racism without any preamble. Did it succeed in setting the tone for the sociopolitical themes the plot would eventually tackle?
- In the supermarket scene, the security guard’s suspicions are quenched when Emira calls the toddler’s white father. What does that say about the unfairness of people of color still needing to legitimize their existence through their associations with white people in social situations?
- When it comes to race relations, did you relate more with Alix or Emira’s experiences? When and how?
- Discuss the ways in which the story incorporated instances of systemic prejudice based on privilege, class and race?
- The character of Alix is depicted as a social media mogul who is hyper conscious about her image. Did that appear relatable in the context of our filtered social media lives?
- How authentic were Alix’s ambivalent feelings towards her newfound status as a full-time mom?
- Alix thinks that Emira perceives her as “textbook rich white person,” while Emira thinks her privileged employer views her with the annoying curiosity usually reserved for exotic species. What does that say about preconceived notions people have when interacting with someone who do not share their ethnicity?
- Alix is portrayed as the kind of white person who pats herself on the back while keeping a tally of the number of African American guests that would be present on her Thanksgiving table. How effective was this scene in skewering white liberalism?
- As a millennial, what were some of the themes addressed in this novel that specially resonated with you and why?
- What did you think of the book’s title? Did it aptly encapsulate the content of this book for you? If not, what title would you have given to this novel?
Find even more general book club questions here.
Such A Fun Age: Further Reading
Since this is a debut, we will have to wait a bit longer to read more of Kiley Reid’s works (although hopefully not too long!). Meanwhile, if you are interested in reading equally engaging novels about complex race relations or transactional relationships between mothers and babysitters/nannies, add the following books to your TBR piles: