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Kiley Reid: ‘I’m Trying to Delve into the Deepest Parts of Human Behavior, Not Be a Spokesperson’

Kiley Reid, author of 'Such a Fun Age' and 'Come and Get It'

Kiley Reid’s journey from obscurity to literary success is a tale of perseverance, passion, and a deep desire to explore the complexities of human behavior. Once a nanny, chocolate salesperson, and magician’s assistant, Reid found her true calling as a writer, earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and captivating readers with her debut novel, “Such a Fun Age.” Now, with her highly anticipated second novel, “Come and Get It,” Reid delves into the intricate dynamics of class, race, age, and money, inviting us to confront our own privileges and biases.

The Triumph of “Such a Fun Age”

Reid’s debut novel, “Such a Fun Age,” was a global bestseller, longlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize, and praised for its insightful exploration of race and class in contemporary America. The story follows Emira Tucker, a young black babysitter, and her relationship with the well-intentioned but oblivious white family she works for. Reid’s deft storytelling and nuanced characterization earned her critical acclaim, establishing her as a rising star in the literary world.

“Come and Get It”: A Campus Novel Unraveling Money’s Influence

In her sophomore effort, “Come and Get It,” Reid shifts her focus to the world of academia, where money and privilege play a significant role in shaping the lives of three very different characters. Agatha, a visiting professor, interviews students for her book about young people’s views on weddings, encountering their contrasting attitudes toward money. Millie, an RA at the dorm where Agatha is conducting her interviews, faces challenges as a black student working among wealthier peers who often patronize her. Kennedy, a shopaholic with a traumatic past, struggles with mental health issues and finds solace in consumerism.

Exploring Power Dynamics and Nuanced Privileges

Through the interwoven narratives of Agatha, Millie, and Kennedy, Reid delves into the complex power dynamics and nuanced interactions between different privileges. Money, in particular, becomes a driving force in the characters’ lives, shaping their decisions, experiences, and relationships. Reid’s exploration of this theme is informed by her diverse work experiences, her understanding of short-term labor, and her desire to delve into the deepest parts of human behavior.

Confronting the Changing Attitudes Towards Money and Class

Reid acknowledges the changing attitudes toward money and class in recent years, recognizing improvements but also expressing skepticism about their effectiveness. She reflects on her own experience as an RA, understanding the mental load and challenges faced by those in such roles. Reid’s financial stability after the success of “Such a Fun Age” has provided her with a unique perspective on the benefits of financial security for artistic creation.

Inspiration and Character Development

Reid’s inspiration for “Come and Get It” stems from the non-fiction book “Paying for the Party,” which prompted her to interview students about their perspectives on money. The novel’s characters embody distinct relationships with money, driving their decision-making and shaping their experiences. Kennedy, in particular, emerges as the “beating heart” of the book, struggling with anxiety and self-discovery through consumerism. Reid’s portrayal of Kennedy’s intense fear of showing up as herself in college resonates with readers who have experienced similar emotions.

Motherhood and Writing: A Balancing Act

Reid’s motherhood journey has profoundly impacted her writing, providing her with a deeper understanding of caregiving and empathy. She acknowledges the challenges of balancing time management and risk-taking in writing while being a mother. Despite the demands of motherhood, Reid continues to find solace and focus in writing, often seeking out gyms and cafes as conducive spaces for her creative process.

Writing Process: Success Doesn’t Make It Easier

Reid’s writing process for “Come and Get It” was a testament to her dedication and perseverance. Despite the success of her debut novel, she realized that success did not make the writing process easier. She continued to write in gyms and cafes, seeking out white noise and focus. The experience reinforced her belief that writing is a challenging but rewarding pursuit, requiring unwavering commitment and a willingness to confront one’s own vulnerabilities.

Conclusion: Anticipation for “Come and Get It”

With its compelling characters, insightful exploration of money and privilege, and Reid’s signature sharp wit, “Come and Get It” is poised to captivate readers. Its publication on January 30, 2023, is eagerly anticipated, promising a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant reading experience. Reid’s unique ability to delve into the deepest parts of human behavior, without being confined to the role of a spokesperson, makes her a writer to watch, and “Come and Get It” a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary fiction that challenges our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.