Top positive review
Reviewed in Australia on 26 January 2020
In this story of a young black babysitter working for a well off white couple Kiley Reid gives us nuanced insights into not only racism and class but also the American health care system and more crucially, the ways people build their narratives. We lock them in, unwilling to stare truth in the face. This occurs particularly with Alix Chamberlain, the mother of the babysat child, who’s built a betrayal myth around the 17 yo who dumped her in high school and who emerges in her current life as the boyfriend of Emira, her sitter. When Alix discovers this at a Thanksgiving dinner, it throws a monkey wrench into the works. What really motivates us to do things is always an interesting question. Alix tries to separate Emira from Kelly (who’s white but who only dates black women) - out of the best possible motives of course. It’s a tricky thing, being a rich white liberal doing your best to be nice to black folks. Emira knows racism through and through and it erupts spectacularly when a security guard tries to prevent her leaving an upmarket grocery store with 2yo Briar at 11pm. She’s there with Briar because the Chamberlains were egged, and a window broken. Alix doesn’t want her child to be frightened by a police presence. Emira knows that if she and Kelly had a son, someone is going to have to explain to him that black men have to be careful of their behaviour: around police and white women, for example.
Other great things about this book are the brilliant representations of the language used by each social group, particularly Emira’s friends, and the savviness of everyone about media. This is not a book that could have been written last century. In its exploration of the human condition though, it delves into themes that are millenia old. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was that it kind of peters out at the end when Elmira has moved on, but possibly I’m being too narky about that. At any rate, Reid is working on a film script of the book, so hopefully it’ll become an excellent movie.