The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
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.
I adore books, television, movies, and any other medium that depicts Black people at work. Describing the experience of working while Black is like exposing people to a whole new world. *Cue the music from Aladdin.
I was ready to dive into this book, body braced for a permanent cringe as the main character dipped and dodged the inevitable microaggressions that occur while working as a Black lady.
The backhanded compliments, assigned experts of all things hip, and of course the hair curiosity. Harris definitely did justice in weaving all of these subtle annoyances into the story.
Nella, the main character, describes the frustration at being the only one by saying, ‘ it started to grate on you. So much so that, at least once a month, you got up from your desk, sauntered over to the ladies’ room, shut yourself in a stall, and asked yourself, “Why am I still here?”
As someone who has locked themselves into an office bathroom and had an existential crisis that fit snugly within my fifteen-minute break, I felt certain parts of this book in my soul.
It is not often that we get a peek behind the curtain of publishing. Nella and the world of Wagner Books are fictional but I enjoyed being submerged in the world of editing, writing, marketing, etc from the perspective of a Black woman.
I thought I was signing up for a workplace drama and was not ready for the rollercoaster ride that followed. A review on GoodReads described it as, ‘ If The Devil Wears Prada and Get Out had a baby,’ and I couldn’t have summed it up better.
While it does possess some of the creepy racially motivated features of Get Out the reveal leaves a lot to be desired. The climax fell towards the end and a lot of what should have been aha moments were rushed.
I got excited to dive deeper into some of the bigger plot points that were uncovered only to realize there were a handful of pages left.
Would I Recommend It?
Yes, but be aware that what you see is not what you get. This book tries to get a lot done in 347 pages. I enjoyed the dialogue and social commentary but there were more than a few moments where I asked, where this is going?
It felt like too much of a slow burn to call it a thriller. Overall it was definitely one of the more original books I’ve read all year. If you enjoy stories with unconventional twists you’ll enjoy this!
Fans and even skeptics may be interested to know that Hulu has ordered a television adaptation of the novel and is currently in early development.
Themes: Office Politics, Racism, Natural Hair
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