UI Writers Workshop alum Kiley Reid talks about her wonderful debut novel Such a Fun Age

Kiley Reid’s debut novel, Such a Fun Age, tells a classic story through a new lens. While in Iowa City for her Jan. 24 reading at Prairie Lights, Reid spoke with a DI reporter about her novel.


Author, Kiley Reid reads her book Such a Fun Age at Prairie Lights Cafe in Iowa City on Friday, January 24, 2020. Reid’s book is a Coming-of-Age Fiction that was published December 31, 2019. (Raquele Decker/The Daily Iowan)

Pedro Barragan, Arts Reporter

Author Kiley Reid visited Prairie Lights Friday evening to promote the release of her debut novel, Such a Fun Age.

The book is a coming-of-age tale about a black babysitter named Emira, who is the caregiver to the child of once-blogging sensation Alix. Emira’s journey takes a wild turn in a domestic style when she is accused of kidnapping the child she’s hired to care for.

Praised by television writer Lena Waithe as a “poignant novel that could not be more necessary” and “unsparing and compassionate” by The Immortalists author Chloe Benjamin, the novel has been warmly received for its honesty and humanity.

Such a Fun Age is a story we’ve heard before, but is told in a fresh voice for a new era. Readers recognize the tale of a caregiver and child who come from different worlds, yet rarely do we see the caregiver tell their story, and Reid changes that. The story is not only contemporary, it is a tale told directly from the perspective of a minority protagonist, rather than someone else telling it for them. With a mesmerizing set of character and moving chapters, Such a Fun Age is a tender tale about race and relationships.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Reid discussed the two triangular relationships, that of Emira, Briar, and Alix to Emira, Alix and Kennedy, a white man she begins a relationship with.

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“As a reader, I really gravitate towards uncomfortable, but most petty moments. Going into it, my goal was to have a really precarious relationship between three people. I was lucky to get two of those relationships,” Reid said. 

In the novel, Emira is stuck in the predicament of deciding what she wants to be for the rest of her life. Reid said she is interested in writing about adults stuck in the wormhole of figuring out what occupations they want to define the rest of their lives. 

“I just like to really narrow in on the characters and ‘what would the situation look like for this character with these boundaries?’ But I do like reading about those awkward in-between areas,” Reid said. 

Reid spoke about how minor moments stir the novel and peak her interest in character.

“I think it’s interesting that minor moments are the ones that keep us up late at night. As a writer and a reader, I’m really interested in moments that don’t show a clear answer.”

With plenty of poignant scenes that offer readers a different insight as to how they handle race and relationships in the novel, Reid intends for her book to be a form of escapism.

“When I pick up a book, I’m looking forward to it to draw me in and so I can forget about everything else. My number one priority is to always make a gripping and entertaining story,” Reid said.

As for Reid’s intentions for the future of her literary career, she only intends to outdo herself.

“As far as a goal, I hope to be able to keep getting better at doing this. Writing is this art form you can get better at. I’m in it for the long game, and I hope to be getting better.”