2 Debut Novels by Black Female Writers: Such a Fun Age + American Spy

American Spy’s heroine, FBI-agent Marie Michell, is a breath of fresh air (even when her fight to be seen and recognized by her all-white and all-male peers is frustratingly familiar).

Penned as a letter from Marie to her son’s, American Spy details her life as an undercover agent, chronicling the events that eventually force her from her boy’s lives.

This is a book that has all of the trappings of a classic spy novel: international intrigue, political power play, seduction, corruption, betrayal and manipulation, while tackling issues uncommon to the genre: how racism, sexism and American imperialism play out in the world or corporate espionage.

Seemingly set up for a sequel, American Spy stutters in parts, stalls in others, but does just enough to carry the reader through to the end.

Such a Fun Age is a breezy read whose casualness can easily mask its seriousness. A coming of age story centered around 25-year old Emira, the family she babysits for and her self-proclaimed “woke” boyfriend, Such a Fun Age peaks with brilliant examinations of white liberals’ fragility, their obsession with blackness and the outlandish lengths they will go through to gain (often unwelcome) proximity to it.

Reid also delves deep into how caregivers (who are mostly women of color) navigate work when the personal and professional become intertwined, a commingling sometimes manufactured by their employers.

This is a book about agency, privilege and whether these women, at opposite ends of a transactional relationship, can really become “family” or even friends. As a Reese Witherspoon Bookclub pick, Such a Fun Age is EVERYWHERE and curiously referenced as satire. While reminders of the protagonist’s milineal-ness can be a little over the top (“OMG Shaunie. Slay Bitch. Exclamation point, star emoji, black girl emoji, cash bag emoji.” They’re in their 20’s, we get it!) the archetypes of the main characters—-the self-appointed white saviors of the world—-feel far from exaggerated. Emira is sometimes a difficult character to root for, but when she finally comes into her own, it’s a reminder that we’re allowed to live life on our terms, whatever those terms may be.

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