“Witty and incisive . . . What Kiley Reid’s debut novel delivers is a more compelling indictment of humans, of how we interact with ourselves and each other, than most writers could muster . . . A dazzlingly clear-eyed study of relationships: between partners, mothers and daughters, peers and friends.”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
This is a novel that chooses a not so overt path to highlight certain aspects of the highly visible issue of racism.. aspects that may not even be apparent to the person indulging in them.
Emira Tucker is 25 years old, still looking for her path in life, working as a part time babysitter for the Chamberlain family. She loves almost 3 yo Briar Chamberlain who is precocious, smart and very different from other kids. She looks forward to spending time with and answering questions of Briar that have her mother looking hassled and wishing for an easier child most of the time.
When Emira is called to babysit Briar and take her to a grocery store nearby to distract her late one night, she abandons a birthday party she is attending. And in the store, another customer and security guard judge her party attire and looks and decide that Briar is a child in danger… Because Emira is African American and Briar is white.
While the issue is seemingly amicably settled, it triggers a need in Briar’s mother Alix, to get to know her babysitter better. Alix has built a career based on her blogs and writing cover letters for students to gain admission in universities. She had to leave behind the seat of action, New York, and move to Philadelphia, but she still regularly connects with her girlfriends there, very emancipated career women themselves. She thinks of herself as a very broad-minded, no-nonsense person who is miles away from judging someone for the colour of their skin. And this incident with Emira makes her want to actually prove that.
In a subtle dance between the connections of Emira’s present with Alix’s past, the grocery store incident just serves as a base for events and human behaviour that shows what different people view as rights, privilege and status and how they react to what happens to them based on these factors.
Through Alix we see how we may not even realize how our actions may have a different meaning to someone who is more marginalized in society and through Emira, we see what such a person actually revers more than anything.
It’s a fast paced read that held my attention throughout.
Added 20th June 2020