Read | 17. Sep 2020

Such A Fun Age - If You Are Not Living In The Wrong Country

When she came home one night from a party, my friend found the babysitter of her son astir because the little boy was obviously feeling sick. My friend the mother, sober in a second, checked on him and his temperature. She was quite alarmed because the six year old was perfectly fine when she left, so she figured it might be something seriosly wrong, like an inflamed appendix, as he was touching his lower belly in pain.

She ordered a cab and drove directly to the emergency room. When she arrived, got to meet the doctor and started to describe the symptoms, he said: "Did you have a drink? ", and she went, "Yes, I just came back from a party....", the doctor then pointed at small bruise at the boys leg, a little injury he got earlier that week, when he fell from a tree, "What is this, how did that happen?"

My friend realized, that the doctor suspected domestic violence: A half drunken mother, beating up her son and now taking him to the hosptial to get away with it. She knew, she had to behave calm and considered. So she swallowed her pride, smiled and said, "I know what it looks like and I am glad you are supecting the worst, but here is what happened..."

She told him the whole story, her circumstances, her background. And as a well known writer of a highly reputated national newspaper she got away with it.

Also: This was not America and she is not black.

Kelly Reid´s fiercy first novel tells another story: A twen babysitter, taking care of her white client´s baby and toddler gets falsely arrested in a mall at night. She also had one or two drinks, when she catches a security guard´s attention - but she gets out of the situation only after the children´s father turns up.

Elmira Tucker is black - and that makes her a suspect right away. That is one part of the story.

The other part, touching me even more, is the way the mother of the two children responds.

In the wake of the supermarket incident, Alix Chamberlain sets out to make a project of Elmira, becoming borderline obsessed in the process.

Her response is galvanised by the reappearance of someone from her past, who brings unwelcome reminders of another racially charged episode, and as the novel powers forward, her apparent gaucheness takes on a very different aspect.

And this is what moved me most: How we - as white and privileged as we are - always think, we do the right thing. How dedicated we are to our liberal and open minded evaluation.

Like my friend said, when she came back from the hospital: "How lucky I was to not have run into a doctor who thinks all single moms are overwhelmed with their children. They might as well have called the police..."