I’m not even going to pretend that this book purchase wasn’t for and because of the gram- because it really was. But! Saying that, it still did fit my remit for Black authors and adding trendy to the list isn’t a bad thing, right? After reading a few heavy books on the trot, I kind of needed a much “lighter”, current book to add some sparkle to my life because as much as reading books about racism and slavery are important- they are heavy and I needed to diversify a bit. Here I had picked this one up and….it’s about racism- lol. Read along and see our review of Such A Fun Age!
The novel follows the lives of Emira Tucker, a 25 year old babysitter still trying to figure out her life and Alix Chamberlain, a successful 32 year old social influencer; their paths meet when Alix seeks out a babysitter for her 2 year old daughter, Briar and newborn Caroline. Late one Saturday night, Emira is asked to take Briar to a late night market, in order to get her out of the house while Alix and her husband, Peter, deal with an emergency. Things quickly take a turn when Emira is followed in the store and then accused of kidnapping Briar. As the incident unfolds with a security guard, where Emira is clearly racially profiled, a passerby begins to record the incident in support of Emira, but it all comes to a head when Emira’s future collides with someone from Alix’s past and they get tangled in a strange series of events.
Alix/Alex Chamberlain: Successful thirty something year old, lifestyle blogger and influencer. In desperate need to keep up appearances and try to be the reason for Emira’s success in life. Seeking a pet project she can “exploit” for her brand.
Emira Tucker: Unsure 25 year old babysitter, smart but plays it safe and doesn’t see the potential in herself as Alix does. Disappointed with where she is in life, but unsure how to change her circumstances.
Kelley Copeland: The stranger who films the incident and eventually become’s Emira’s love interest, Alix’s high school bf, self- professed lover of all things “Black”, but doesn’t see his own inherent privilege and fetishism
Peter Chamberlain: Alix’s husband, news anchor
Briar & Caroline Chamberlain: Alix & Peter’s daughters
Break It Down:
Let me tell you…Alix Chamberlain’s character is next level coocoo bananas. She was legit obsessed with Emira, and I don’t know if she was going through a sort of mental breakdown or if she needed professional help, but I found myself shaking my head often and my jaw even hit the floor a few times! One thing this book hits on the head so acutely is the idea of a “White Saviour” and wanting to exist in the world simply as a person and not a Black person. Alix, may have good intentions and her heart might be in the right place when she wants to help Emira, but it begins to become obsessive when she almost feels like she NEEDS to offer her every kindness in the book, And in doing so, is almost even more patronizing, inauthentic and flaunts her wealth and just how clueless she really is. Emira on the other hand, is really just trying to figure her life out, but is also very happy to go through the motions, so in some ways- it was almost magnetic just how opposite these two are. Emira becomes a project for Alix, a code to crack, but also a way for her to hide her racism. She is literally the definition of a White Saviour and her attitude about it, is so selfishly driven. She isn’t genuinely interested in just being a nice person, she needed to know details about her life, She even checked Emira’s phone and judged the music she listened. The very gift she gave to Emira, the way she flippantly attempted to be humble, but it came across so much more disingenuous.
I found the character of Emira’s boyfriend, Kelley Copeland, a very very interesting one. Mostly, because I know people very much like him, people who walk the earth feeling good about themselves and their Black or multicultural friendship groups, the White guy who gets along with his Black friends so well- he’s one of them. He can rap the lyrics to some of the most prolific rappers, he is sympathetic to the racism his friends may experience and he would speak up or film an incident of injustice, like he did with Emira. But apart from that, in some ways his proximity to Blackness without ever fully living the experience puts him in an interesting position, because in some ways he is so blind to his own racism. He only seems to date Black women, in some odd fetichism of their colour/exoticness. He is so close to Blackness he feels comfortable saying the N word and even acts confused when Emira gets angry and tells him why he can never use the word. And while I”m sure in some ways Alix is meant to be the obvious villain (and she is- don’t get me wrong), in some ways a person like Kelley Copeland is also just as dangerous, because they simply do not see the problems in their behaviours.
It completely fetishizes black people in a terrible way,” Tamra went on. “It makes it seem like we’re all the same, as if we can’t contain multitudes of personalities and traits and differences. And people like that think that it says something good about them, that they’re so brave and unique that they would even dare to date black women. Like they’re some kind of martyr.
This type of dichotomy- I love that the author didn’t shy away from, it adds to the complexities when it comes to talking about race, but it also is what makes things complicated when someone like Kelley, roam around feeling like they have done us a favour, they are helping us, when the fact of the matter is- none of them took the time to ask Emira what she wanted to do. How comfortable she was with being racially profiled and ultimately humiliated. Both of the main characters, Alix and Kelley are both White Saviours, but in such different ways- it’s brilliant. I appreciate how she left that open ended for the reader to take from it what they may.
Although, I liked Emira’s character, I found her to be somewhat aloof and a bit of a mystery for the reader to figure out and because of this I didn’t feel as great a connection to her, especially if I were to compare her and the book to Candace Carty-Williams’ Queenie. I personally couldn’t relate to Emira as easily as I did with Queenie, but that’s not to say it’s not a good book or that there was something wrong with her character. The author did a wonderful job showing you just how unsure about life Emira was, she was in some ways an extrovert, but in many ways she allowed herself to simply go through the motions for the sake of it. What I definitely did like was the fact that the author did a great job setting the scene and painting the image and background of many situations, so that the reader was very well informed. Despite this, as the conclusion of the book progressed, I felt like many situations were mentioned but not explained in the same manner it had been throughout the book. The foreshadowing of their futures, was almost disappointing and I personally felt like the book was building and building and then decreased like a deflated balloon. I needed more sass.
Would I recommend the book?:
Of course, it’s a super easy and smooth read, there was suspense, drama and politics- it is for sure a great summer book- it’s not too heavy and makes social commentary without getting too political. It is definitely relevant and a great book for the most part.
3.5 out of 5 stars