Games We Play With Children: 5 Books About Nannies

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid is sly, perceptive, and oh-so-timely. Alix, who is white, has cultivated a flair for communication and beautiful handwriting into a brand and is attempting to write a book while her newscaster husband weathers a professional storm after making a racially insensitive comment on air. Emira, who is black, is her educated sitter (don't call her a nanny) who generally likes her job, except that she's about to get kicked off her parents' health insurance. After a racist incident in a high-end bodega, Alix tries to befriend Emira, but after a Friendsgiving from hell, they both have to confront their own prejudices and assumptions. Reid has some very pertinent, incisive things to say about privilege, good intentions, and transactional relationships in this often-comic, graceful novel. Of course, if you liked Such A Fun Age as much as I did, I have some more books about nannies and the social implications of having a non-relative look after your children.

Angie Abdou's Between focuses a bit more on the tightrope of having a career and children in the story of Vero and her Filipina nanny, Ligaya. Vero is trying to have it all, and ends up doing it all until she hires a nanny. Ligaya's perspective lays bare the sense of entitlement and cultural superiority endemic to North American upper classes in this satire of love, marriage, and parenthood.

Former nanny Victoria Brown knows of what she writes in Minding Ben. Grace is fresh from Trinidad and hoping for a Green Card when she becomes a nanny for the Bruckners. She ends up doing most of the chores along with watching their son while the Bruckners grow increasingly vague about her immigration status. And then there is the clique of other nannies from the Islands at the play park, all in the summer leading to the Crown Heights riots in Brooklyn. Grace eventually comes out on top in this novel of striving and heartbreak.

In Fay Weldon's She May Not Leave, Martyn and Hattie are partners who get a semblance of their pre-baby lives back when they hire Agnieszka as an au pair. However, Frances, Hattie's grandmother who also lives with them, can see the storm on the horizon. Zingers abound, especially about political correctness and the changing fads of childrearing. 

Privileged, sheltered, oblivious Stuart and Andie Cross hire an aspiring, African American painter as home help in Ben Cheever's The Good Nanny. Louise reads literature to their two children while Stuart tries to write the book a career setback has given him the time, if not the inspiration, to do. Cheever goes after racial aggressions, both macro and micro, in this seriously dark comedy with a shock ending.

Have more books about the complexities of hiring a sitter? Tell us in the comments.

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