A book suggested by the Reese Witherspoon bookclub on Instagram. They pick a different book each month, usually regarding female empowerment within different genres. This one caught my interest not only because of the lovely cover art but also because of the ongoing media attention for this debut novel of author Kiley Reid. It focuses on the status quo on race and class in the USA.
First of all though I have to set the record straight – I am a young white woman from Austria. I have been privileged in many many ways, also not to have been exposed to discrimination regarding my ethnicity.
In my world, my little bubble, everyone is the same, no matter which skin colour someone is wrapped in or how much money they have on their bank accounts. What matters in my world is what is inside one’s brain and heart. However I am aware, that we don’t live in my La La Land and that discrimination and racism is still very present. Kiley Reid however manages to explore the different aspects of ethnicity and privilege from two significantly different angles in authentical storytelling. This novel is so very now.
One city, two different worlds
Emira Tucker, one of the two leading women in this book, lives in Philadelphia. She is an ordinary mid twenties girl, trying to “figure it out”. You know – all of it, including love, friendship and money. She works as a part time babysitter for Alix Chamberlain, a well to do white upper class business lady who owns her own company. The Chamberlains eldest daughter Briar has grown on Emira, also considering that “B” as she nicknamed the quirky little girl, is not getting as much affection from her mother, as Mrs. Chamberlains youngest Catherine or even her babysitter herself.
Emira is subtle in her job appearance, trying her best not get involved too much in her bosses life but focusing all her efforts on her best young friend Briar. It startles her, when Mrs. Chamberlain suddenly tries to get to know her better straight after an on-air-faux-pas by her husband Peter Chamberlain, a local TV anchor, who was pressumed to be racist and a life changing encounter with a security guard at an upper class supermarket where Emira was accused of kidnapping B.
As poignantly as Reid draws Emira’s character, she elaborately tells the story of Alix Chamberlain, who is probably struggling with a case of white guilt that she kept from her teenage years, growing up surrounded by her parents new money. Somehow her feelings towards Emira are complex and not as superficial as one might think.
Creating a deeper relationship with her sitter soon becomes a high priority on her list and instead of engaging in her first borns talents and needs she gets all consumed by Emira’s life. Whether Alix is overly woke or subconciously trying to make herself look good to the outside world – one can only assume.
Unphased and cool
This book kept me caught up in Emiras and Alix world. I was delighted to find out, how smartly the author placed little hints on our lives in modern society – how we deal with Social Media and prejudices. It’s incredibly refreshing that Emira is so fantastically unphased by society’s trends or opinions. She does things her own way – without an instagram feed or a high fetched career goal. Amidst people trying to push her to achieve more, she stays true to herself. She is a sitter for now, and that’s fine. For me, this book has one of the best endings I have read in a long time, as we find out about Mrs. Chamberlain and Emira’s life after they went separate ways.
“Maybe she wasn’t by her girlfriends’ standards, (…) but Emira really was doing okay. She’d gone to Mexico for Zara’s birthday, alls five days. She’d stuck to her New Year’s resolution to make her bed every day. She had a savings account, which she dipped into often, but not so much that it didn’t exist. And she’d added two new recipes to her dinner circulation, both of which were Crock-Pot meals, but still.” Thanks to Reid finishing this novel left me with a little smile while still thinking about the Alix Chamberlains and Emira Tuckers of this world.