The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

Title: The Other Black Girl

Author: Zakiya Dalila Harris

Pub date: June 1st 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get Out meets The Devil Wears Prada in this electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust.

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary that is perfect for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.

I had no idea what I was getting into when starting the book. I’ve just seen The Devil Wears Prada in the publishing world and I knew I had to read this book. I never watched Get Out so this reference didn’t mean much to me. The story starts quite slow and very inconspicuously, I was not expecting the mystery and conspiracies that hit me later. It truly disguises itself as a contemporary book about the publishing world and its whiteness. And it is this book, but so much more at the same time.

Harris uniquely shows race issues. 

The story follows Nella, young black girl, the only back employee at a big publishing house until the other black girl joins. Something that seems joyous, a moment when she has someone who will understand her daily experiences ends up nothing like that. The new girl with unexpected ease takes up more and more space in the company. It brings up an interesting question – if you are the only one Black, female, Latin etc. employee, do you starting feeling like the special one? You are the one that made it against all odds, and all new people that will join you, who may make your life easier, also take some of the spotlights from you? Do you want to share the lights with others? You fought for it, and now it’s all so much easier for them. I feel like not everyone is so generous not to feel some kind of envy. However, the bigger topic of the book is the decision the main character had to make – how do you want to live with your blackness, how do you want to present it to the white folks in a professional environment? There are no easy answers.

I’m so happy to read about the black characters that are morally ambiguous and do not meet the expected black characters tropes. I was hooked in the story and couldn’t wait to learn more. I needed to know more of the secrets, I cheered on the main character when she persued the leads and tried to find out what the hell is going on. The story had a great build-up, and I was hoping for an amazing, climactic happy ending. I didn’t get that. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it, but at the same time, the ending makes sense for the story and its message. But I still wished for a more hopeful or confrontational ending. I need a punch to the complacent ones.

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