Opinion: White People Should Read ‘Such a Fun Age’

The author, Detroit junior Rhiannon Slotnick, sits in front of a flower bed holding a copy of Kiley Reid’s debut novel Such a Fun Age. The book helped open the author’s eyes to the privilege that they hold, pushing them to make a personal change (Photo courtesy of Macy Kay Wallace).

A few weeks ago, I was assigned “Such a Fun Age,” by Kiley Reid in one of my classes, and it was one of the best books I have ever read. On March 20, Reid visited the college to speak at the Yinger lecture about her most recent novel “Come and Get It.” 

“Such a Fun Age” fundamentally focuses on privilege in America; it touches on racial and financial inequality alongside other contemporary issues. The main character, Emira Tucker, works two jobs as a typist and a babysitter to make ends meet. The latter occupation brings successful business woman, Alix Chamberlain, into her life. 

I don’t usually like to read contemporary literature, but I could not put this book down. Something about “Such a Fun Age” had me hooked. 

I was fascinated with how Reid wrote her characters. She made them realistic enough for me to compare myself to them, even the characters I wasn’t fond of.

During the lecture, Reid talked about how she was able to craft her characters from real-life experiences. She used quotes from people she interviewed and used her own experiences as a nanny. 

“Some authors will tell you ‘I really wanted to talk about race and interracial relations and class and that’s why I wrote this book,’” Reid said. “I personally don’t believe in that.”

Every time Alix did something particularly cringe-worthy, I would remember what one of my coworkers at Barnes and Noble said when I asked what her opinions on the book were. 

“It’ll make you think,” she said. 

And it did. Reflecting on my experiences with white privilege, I found myself connecting to Kelley Copeland, Emira’s short-term boyfriend, who is one of the most insufferable characters in the book. He fetishizes Black culture, breaks women’s hearts in some of the most humiliating ways and has a severe case of a white-savior complex. 

I was able to relate to him because I too, in different ways, have fetishized cultures different from my own. 

As someone who went to a predominantly Hispanic and Black high school in Detroit, I thought of myself as a white exception, though I did not recognize I felt this way. Looking back, I realize how I was caught up in my own privilege. 

I came to this realization when in class discussing the environment of Kelley’s apartment. Not only did he act like he was a part of Black culture through his personality, but he also made it a point to buy clothes and art that were made by Black designers. 

I would pick up certain words and phrases that my Hispanic and Black friends would say and listen to the same music. Simultaneously, I would tread lightly with what I said around them because I didn’t want them to think of me as a bad person. Nobody wants to look ignorant. 

I hate to admit it, but I would stop myself from being educated about certain social issues because I thought I knew everything about it. That part of who I am scares me. 

“Such a Fun Age” helped me realize that I am most definitely not an exception. 

I need to educate myself and not overstep. I don’t want to take away from the voices who speak up about their own experiences. I am not saying this for recognition, but as a way for me to admit to myself that I am not as good of a person as I thought I was.  

At the lecture, Reid said something that could be considered a little goofy but was powerful to me.

“Writing is a strange thing,” Reid said. “I hate to say this because it sounds so cheesy, but I think it makes us better people.”

If you believe your writing can make a difference in how you see yourself, then it will have the same impact on another person.

Reid said that your writing has to be personal and that you have to be affected by human emotions in order to write about certain topics. If you don’t have that experience, that doesn’t mean someone doesn’t. As a writer, it’s your duty to then find someone who does, something reflected in Reid’s depiction of Briar, Alix’s eldest daughter.

Briar is very mature for her age. In the book, Emira describes the three-year-old girl as a “serious child,” who is not silly and understands adults’ emotions. She does ask questions like most children do, but she is also able to identify that she is not her mom’s favorite, and is able to accept this after having a conversation with Emira.  

The one good thing that comes out of Alix’s obsession is that Briar does not see Emira as anything other than her babysitter. She is not concerned with the color of Emira’s skin; only that she is the only adult in her life that pays her any attention. 

Briar has the innocence I wish I had; at the same time though, I’m glad I’m now aware of my privilege.  

“Such a Fun Age” has been an eye-opener. Before reading this book, I knew I needed to change. I knew I needed to become a better person. Having read it, the book gave me the final push I needed to begin the process of educating myself.  

Read this book and let it change you too.

About Rhiannon Slotnick 29 Articles
Rhiannon Slotnick is a Junior from Detroit, Michigan. She is double majoring in English Literature Creative Writing and Sociology. She enjoys putting words on to paper for both work and for personal pleasure. If she's not writing, you can find her reading a book or stargazing around campus. You can contact her at rms15@albion.edu

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