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Book Notes: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid & Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Kiley Reid Such a Fun Age Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere Book Review

All the stars aligned, and something very wrong happened when I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid at the same time.

I read Little Fires Everywhere with a friend who is far better at pacing herself. When I got too far ahead, I put it down and picked up Such a Fun Age.

My local bookshop could only manage copy of Little Fires Everywhere with the Hulu series adaptation cover. I was forgiving. Now I’m kinda grateful.

While I waited for my friend to finish Little Fires, I wrapped up Such a Fun Age and binged on the Hulu series adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere.


Together, these stories articulated to me the unutterable—unutterable not because it shouldn’t be uttered but because some things are just too big for words. I can’t summarize what together they taught me about being Black in white spaces, especially ones that invite you in and beg you to stay. It felt like Little Fires Everywhere would start a sentence, the adaptation would rephrase it, and Such a Fun Age would finish it off with such potency that I’d have to sit back in quiet for a bit.

Pearl & Emira. I held them in parallel and saw what Reid’s and Ng’s characters couldn’t:

Everyone wants something from her. Those who love her await some kind of award. Those who give to her hold her as indebted.

Well-meaning white lovers refused to acknowledge the Blackness of their Black lovers: “I don’t see color.” White men fetishized Black women, even while they loved genuinely. White people collected Black friends like badges of wokeness. Black women internalized the message as some flavor of self-loathing. For Mai Ling, Chinese culture was equated to American fortune cookies, and everyone insisted that race didn’t matter.

All this savored and digested, I finally got to chat about Little Fires Everywhere with my friend. We’d only started when she corrected me: “Mia and Pearl are white.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Yes, they are.”

We googled Ng’s intentions. White working-class women. Hulu had taken inspiration and given it wings.

Well. I have rereading to do. Main themes remain intact—race is important in both stories—but I found parallels where there were none, or perhaps there were parallels, but ones that confronted the condition of women more universally, or social class as much as race. All I can say is that I’m ready to re-read and learn again.

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