Short review: The Other Black Girl is an immensely readable office thriller that will have readers on the edge of their couches trying to finish another page or two before they have to get on with the day-to-day.
Shorter review: Just read it.
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris, is at its core, a novel about what we’re willing to give up to move up. But I should also acknowledge the fact that I’m white and the main characters are Black, and for that reason, their journey, which is to make it big in the white, white, white publishing world, is something I can only empathize with to a certain degree. Because I’m not Black. It’s disingenuous to suggest I come even close to “getting it.” There is likely a whole other level of, “Damn, did that just happen?” I don’t get to experience. So I’ll just savor what I can — and it’s a lot.
Nella, a young 20-something Black editorial assistant at Wagner Books, dreams big. She worked her butt off to get a job at Wagner, inspired by the fact that two of her literary heroes, Diana Gordon and Kendra Rae Phillips, published their national bestseller “Burning Heart” at Wagner. Two years in, she’s still paying her dues when newcomer Hazel arrives to take the cubicle across from her. And whatever initial excitement that came with the understanding Nella was no longer the only Black assistant fades when Nella becomes a target of Hazel’s even stronger career drive and evil machinations.
Will Nella figure out who is threatening her to leave Wagner? Without giving away too much, I’ll just say this — it’s a painfully good page turner. Painful, because I cared about Nella. I like her. She’s a go-getter. She’s got most of her shit together. And watching the story unfold is a bit like a slow motion car crash, where you are left wondering, “Exactly how much bullshit does this girl have to put up with?”
I will also say this — I love that Harris doesn’t necessarily fall prey to the conventional, more socially acceptable, maybe? way out when the story comes to a climax. The ending is not a comfortable one, but it’ll stay with you longer. Not everything gets wrapped up in a neat and shiny bow. Or in this case, hair product.
I also love that it includes a smarmy awful boss that women of any background can come together and rally around a hatefire chanting his name. Richard, you asshole.
I loved this book — one of my favorites so far this year. Do yourself a favor and add it to your TBR pile. And don’t ever use anything that doesn’t have an ingredients label on it. Sage advice, Malaika.