Kiley Reid grew up loving libraries because it was the one place that she could truly be alone. Within the stacks she could figure out who she was and look at all her favorite types of books: the baby name books.
Reid is the author of “Such a Fun Age,” a story following Alix, a savvy entrepreneur and mom of two young children and her nanny Amira, a recent college graduate who has been struggling with supporting herself and figuring out her future.
“Such A Fun Age” was the 2023 Washtenaw Read novel and on Feb. 5, Reid visited the Ann Arbor District Downtown Library to talk about her experiences as a writer, the publishing process and more.
“When you’re an artist you make art, then years later it comes out and by then you’re a different person with different interests and chemistry but your art has stayed the same,” Reid said. “My book came out on Dec. 31, 2018. Then Covid happened. Then George Floyd was murdered. Myself and many other black artists had to contend with the fact that many white people were now picking up our books and saying ‘I can make racism better by reading this book.’ […] Being an artist means you cannot judge what brings people to your art. You can be annoyed by it. But you can’t control it because that’s how art works.”
Reid loves awkwardness, especially when she can just observe an awkward moment happening to others. Her book mimics this as she considers topics that are typically not openly discussed including wealth, financial security and the way that race impacts interpersonal connection.
“Awkward moments are often the result of information coming out when people aren’t ready to explore it,” she said. “Awkward moments have a way of bringing history to the forefront when a circumstance seems really innocuous. Now all of a sudden you’re like ‘how do we deal with these things that just happened?’”
Even though “Such A Fun Age” is fiction, Reid worked as a nanny in New York City for six years with multiple families. She became interested in how mothers become the way that they are and how class dynamics can change the way people talk about money.
“Money is political and it’s fake and it’s real and it makes our lives better whether we like to admit that or not,” Reid said. “[In the book] instead of using dollars and cents I went down this road of exploring words and phrases that we use when we are talking about money [such as] ‘she comes from a good family,’ ‘that’s a bad school’ ‘that’s a nice restaurant, it’s very fancy.’ All of that is money, that’s what we are talking about without talking about it.”
For Reid, writing and reading novels is all about exploring and capturing human behavior, and seeing things that are real portrayed in a novel because she does it too. But, Reid has also seen how many people look to novels to teach them something.
“I have a lot of people on tour say to me ‘can you just tell me what you want?’ and it made me step back and look at what novels are for,” she said. “I think the best way to interact with a novel, especially with black artists, is to enjoy that book first.”
Reid is currently working with a potential screen adaptation for “Such A Fun Age” as well as her second book titled “Come and Get It” to be published January 9, 2024. Learn more about Kiley Reid on her website. Listen to the full talk from AADL.