Cover Image: The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl

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Member Reviews

I was expecting something different when I started this book. The description that I have seen repeatedly is " The Other Black Girl is Devil Meets Parada meets the movie Get Out," and that's not what this book is. The Other Black Girl is more of a literary fiction novel exploring the microaggressions found in the workplace. There are elements of a thriller here, but this isn't it if you want a fast-paced thriller. The Other Black Girl is a super slow burn, and the ending was less than satisfying for me. 

I almost feel like this book could have been so much more. But, instead, there were plot holes and underdeveloped characters that disconnected me from the writing. 

However, I will say Zakiya Dalila Harris is excellent with words. I would still recommend this novel, but know it's not the novel that advertisers are saying it is.
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“The Devil Wears Prada” meets “Get Out!” in “The Other Black Girl”
	
In The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria), Nella Rogers, a twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant in New York City, loves her job. She has longed to become an editor at Wagner Books ever since reading their groundbreaking bestseller Burning Heart when she was a teenager. Nella’s dream has come true, except that she is the only Black woman on the staff. She feels isolated and disrespected by her co-workers, and her attempts to enlighten them about racial diversity prove futile until one day when something miraculous occurs. 	

Harlem born and bred Hazel-May McCall, a new Black editorial assistant, arrives on the scene. Hazel is beautiful, confident, outspoken, and socially conscious; all the things Nella is not, but nonetheless Nella immediately senses a whiff of competition from her new colleague; and coincidentally, Nella becomes embroiled in a string of uncomfortable events that affect her credibility at Wagner.

When Nella questions the stereotypical portrayal of a Black character in an upcoming novel from Wagner’s bestselling author, both the author and Nella’s boss Vera are affronted. As retribution, Vera mentors Hazel, leaving Nella to question her identity within the company. To prove her worth to Vera, Nella buries herself in her additional assignments, to the detriment of her relationships with her live-in boyfriend, Owen, and her best friend Malaika. Despite her efforts, Nella watches Hazel’s star rise while her’s fizzles out. 

But that is not the worst of it. Threatening notes appear on Nella’s desk, warning her to “LEAVE WAGNER NOW.” Who is responsible for the threats? Is it Hazel?

Tension mounts as Nella is anonymously tipped off that Hazel is not who she pretends to be, and Nella sets out on a dangerous path to unmask her competitor. Cool-girl Hazel always seems to be one step ahead of Nella, and now Hazel’s apparent friendliness suggests a cover for darker hidden secrets. Drawn deeper into the mystery, Nella questions her own identity and whether her career here is worth sacrificing her personal life for. 

Intertwined with Nella’s story are vignettes detailing the simultaneously catastrophic downfall of the editor, and mercurial rise of the author, of “Burning Heart,” a momentous book; it was the first number-one fiction bestseller written and edited by two Black women and was published by Wagner Books in the 1980s. The pair were thick as thieves, but their legendary falling-out remains the subject of office gossip and a mystery kept under wraps by the powerful owner of the publishing house. 

That novel’s author found tremendous success after publication, while in contrast, the editor’s careless and racist remarks forced her to quit publishing and seek seclusion. The once-childhood friends haven’t communicated in almost thirty years, and have remained polarized by an industry demanding compliance with the rules. Tying the subplots to the main story, Nella wonders whether she holds the key to locating the editor and reuniting the two women after all these years. 

On every page, the reader is drawn into the suspense of uncovering the conspiracy which was set in motion to ruin Nella’s life; will her career end as disastrously as that missing editor’s did? As an outside observer, the reader will sense impending danger before Nella does, and will wish to warn her not to open the envelope, the door, or her mouth. But Nella always does, elevating the horror of the situation. The climactic confrontation between Hazel and Nella offers a smart, witty plot twist which resonates long after the final chapter.

In The Other Black Girl, Harris, a publishing veteran, doesn’t mince words. On one level, the novel is a grippingly dark thriller about racial inequality, sexism and power in the white-dominated publishing world. Atria Books has compared The Other Black Girl to The Devil Wears Prada, a chick-lit bestseller and film about the backstabbing world of fashion and a young fashion editor’s trials to please her demanding boss. 

The Other Black Girl, however, is not even a bit trite. It is a hard-hitting satire about racial inequality in our society on a broader scale — gun violence, prejudice, the media, class disparity and celebrity — dressed up in the world of book publishing. Harris’ characters are not afraid to speak their truths about contemporary issues and raise thought-provoking questions about the world we live in. The novel makes the reader feel uncomfortable and holds them responsible for being complicit in the disparity. 

For readers who seek a challenging and entertaining escape, The Other Black Girl fits the bill. The creepy Get Out!-quality of The Other Black Girl is certain to spark conversations about racial diversity and the way we view ourselves for weeks, months and years to come.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for this ARC.

Short Overview:
Nella Rogers is the only black employee at Wagner books, until a new hire, Hazel, comes on the scene. Nella begins receiving threats to leave the company but is not sure who they are from, so she attempts to find out. The suspense builds over the story as she investigates who exactly is sending her these warnings.

Pros:
-So important to understand more about microaggressions in the workplace and this book shows many of them
-Discussion of white privilege

Cons:
-The book just didn't really hook me, took a while to get to the suspense

Audio Format:
Read beautifully by several narrators

Overall: 4/5
Was not quite was I was expecting, but great book!
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I really enjoyed almost all of this book. I thought The Other Black Girl was thought provoking, smart, and well written. The dialogue, especially Nella’s internal dialogue, was completely engaging and the tensions palpable and believable. But there were elements to this story that as a reader I felt were unnecessary, and took away from how much I enjoyed the book. 
Yes, Harris is very creative, and some of the genre-bending is what is getting this so much attention, but her writing of relationships, office dynamics, competition, community, all through the lens of race, was enough to stand on its own. I will definitely recommend this book, and will read whatever Zakiya Delila Harris writes next. I bounced back and forth between the audio and the book. The narration is EXCELLENT.
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Aw man. This book. Where to even begin? Nella Rogers, 26, is an assistant book editor at Wagner Books, and its only Black employee. When Hazel moves into the cubicle next door, Nella is thrilled. Finally another Black girl to help take some of the pressure off, and someone who understands the isolation and microaggressions that plague predominately white workplaces. The honeymoon period doesn’t last, however, when Hazel is elevated to the favored and Nella is left behind, still doing so much work with no recognition. Then the notes start. LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. they proclaim. She can’t believe Hazel would do something like this, but who else would it be? And if it’s someone else, more sinister forces might be at play.

That’s the best I can do without giving you any spoilers. And you don’t want any! This book is so good. I devoured it in just a couple of days, and then I made sure our library system had some (they are on order). I want to put this book in the hands of readers. It’s got intrigue and mystery and Black Girl magic and the specific hardships of Black women in America. And….no murder! That may be a spoiler, but I’m tired of mystery/thrillery books with murder. This one’s more literary fiction with an edge, and I want more books like it.

The characterization was great. The writing amazing. And the narrators, Aja Naomi King; Joniece Abbott-Pratt; Heather Alicia Simms; Bahni Turpin did a phenomenal job. I can’t recommend this one enough. It’s been a minute since I gave something a full five stars, but this is it, baby. If you like good books, read it!
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