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Author Kiley Reid On Her Debut Novel ‘Such a Fun Age’

 January 9, 2020 at 10:16 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Such a fun age is a novel about a young babysitter and her well-intentioned employer that dives into issues of race and privilege on the surface. Kylie Reed, author of such a fun age, joined us via Skype to talk about her debut novel. Kylie, welcome. Thank you so much for having me. So, okay. This is a novel that tackles issues of race, class, current trends, and even mothers and how they deal with their children. Tell us about the plot of this story and the main characters, if you can. Sure. So that the story starts with a Mira Tucker. She's 25 she's an African American babysitter and a temple university graduate, and she's at that point in her life where she really doesn't know what she wants to do, but she's about to go off of her parents' health insurance. And so one night, Alex Chamberlain, a wealthy white mother, asked her to babysit and take the child out because they've had a family emergency. Speaker 1: 00:52 Amira is happy to do so. She takes little three year old Briar out to a grocery store and they're having fun. They're dancing until a Mira is accused of kidnapping the child. Uh, from there it turns into a comedy of good intentions as Alex and others tried to write the night's wrongs. So, and then right then in that moment, the story opens with that in all of these issues managed to collide at the same time. How do you pull all those issues together in one story? Is there a common thread that you use in your writing to do that? I think that the biggest comment that I can do is this, the three characters that I was most concerned about. I love starting with characters and as they reveal themselves to me and their tendencies, I try to let them show me where the story is going. Speaker 1: 01:39 And this book also examines a type of, of prejudice and racism that doesn't get a lot of attention and that is liberal racism. Can you talk about about what that is and how it's explored in this book? Yeah. Um, as a person, I'm very interested in the systems at play that keep poor people poor like a Mira. And you know, she's a 25 year old woman who can't go to the doctor if she wants to. And I'm very interested in those boundaries placed on her life. But as a writer and a reader, I'm very interested in the teeny tiny little microaggressions that racism often, uh, lets it happen, kind of bubble up to the surface. Um, Alex wants to feel good and she wants her babysitter to like her. And so giving her a bottle of wine makes her feel really good, but she's not really doing anything to change a circumstance of her life. Speaker 1: 02:27 It's a lot, a lot about individual actions instead of a community. Was there any particular experience in your own life that informed your storytelling about these issues and peaked your interest? There wasn't this specific incident. I'm sure every black person has moments that they can point to, of racism on an overt scale and a little bit smaller. I've definitely had, you know, the, uh, maybe you should fix your hair or wow, you're really articulate, but I'm way more interested in the more insidious, um, instances of racism. Like, you know, did I not get this job because of my hair or did I not get this apartment because of how I look? So I like to play around with both of those types. Speaker 2: 03:06 Mmm. And what inspired you to write this book? Speaker 1: 03:09 I think I was just drawn in by Alex and Ameera. Um, initially I love writing with characters who find themselves in a position of power that they weren't ready for. And I like watching the mental gymnastics of how they deal with that. And a lot of the times it's, it's denying that power. So I like power struggles on a really big level and also on a very domestic petty level is too. Speaker 2: 03:31 Yeah. Well, and you know, once you identify characters it's, you can take a story in so many different directions, you know? Why was this story so important for you to tell? Speaker 1: 03:41 I think I honestly just went in saying, I want a story with a very awkward triangle of people as some of my favorite movies have a triangle of people from movies like Moonlight to a romcoms. I think that it's possible to touch on class warfare. And have that awkward dramatic triangle as well. Speaker 2: 04:00 And your book has released, received some I a claim. What do you, how do you feel about that? Speaker 1: 04:06 I mean it's, it's overwhelming and really touching and exciting. I have to say that, you know, the messages I get from black women saying, you know, I read a lot, but this was the first time I read a black protagonist that's really touching to me. And the fact that they enjoyed it on top of that, it just, it makes me over the moon. Speaker 2: 04:23 You know, I've read in some of the reviews that the way in which you tell this story dealing with such heavy issues, um, is a way that's sort of easily digestible for a lot of people and for a diverse group of people. Um, talk to me about that. Speaker 1: 04:37 Yeah, I love writing and dialogue that looks in sounds exactly like it's being done. So I definitely like writing with a conversational tone. Um, and reading dialogue is sometimes a lot easier than reading really thick paragraphs. That said, my intention is never to make light of systemic racism. Um, and I'm super proud of the moments that I make readers cringe as well. Speaker 2: 05:02 And talk to me about some of the other issues that you've tackled in this um, novel. I mean we talk about issues of privilege and race, but there were some other issues too. Speaker 1: 05:12 Of course. Um, I'm super interested in domestic labor rights and I live in Philadelphia, that's where the book is based. And just in October, Philadelphia passed the domestic worker bill of rights, which is going to change things around a lot for a lot of women of color in the city. Um, Amir Tucker and my novel, you know, at one point she thinks about quitting, but she can't do that because she can't put into two weeks notice because the job didn't work like that. And I'm really interested in how emotional labor and working within a family, all of those things, how they can be better and how they're not serving us. Speaker 2: 05:45 And what do you hope readers take away from your book? Speaker 1: 05:48 I mean, the first thing is I just hope they enjoy it. I think as a writer, that's all that you can hope is that your story is gripping and, and readers connect with the characters. But I also really love when a book makes me zoom out and look at the boundaries placed on people and, and helps me see the world in a different way. So I hope I can do that. Speaker 2: 06:05 And what's next? Will we see this story on the big screen? Speaker 1: 06:09 That is the plan. Uh, two production companies including Lena waits, uh, Hilman grad ha have purchased the rights to the film adaptation, which was really exciting for me. So I can't wait to see what that looks like and I'll slowly be working on that. And probably novel number two at some point. Speaker 2: 06:26 What do you think you'll tackle in your next novel? Speaker 1: 06:28 Oh man, I've, I've been writing about class issues for a really long time, but I am sure that the very small crushes, jealousies, insecurities, all of those stuff. Well, we'll make appearances again. Speaker 2: 06:42 Well, I have been speaking with Kylie Reed, author of such a fun age. Kylie, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you so much Kylie. Reed will be at Warrick's in LA Jolla January 14th at seven 30 to talk about her new book. It's such a fun age.

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Kiley Reid will be at Warwick’s in La Jolla on January 14 to talk about her novel "Such a Fun Age," which dives into issues of race and privilege with a nuanced approach that's related to a diverse audience.
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