Review: The Other Black Girl
‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris.
A review by Megan Robinson.
The Other Black Girl is a dark and smart satire novel on race and the modern-day workplace that will keep you guessing until the very last twist. We follow Nella, an editorial assistant who is tired of being the only black employee at Wagner Books. She is thrilled when Hazel, another black girl, starts working in the cubicle next to hers. A string of uncomfortable events unfolds and Nella soon realises that there may be a lot more at stake than just her career.
This novel is exceptional. Period. Not only does Zakiya have an exceptional writing style (which will have been amplified from working in the editorial department of Knopf Doubleday for nearly three years,) but she brings to focus the racism and microaggressions still prevalent in the publishing industry to this day. I highly recommend that everyone read this book to understand the struggles that black people face on a day-to-day basis, but I also recommend that you read reviews for this book from other black people, hear what they have to say and their experiences with this novel.
The novel is split into four parts, most of the chapters being 2nd person perspective of Nella, with the occasional 1stperson perspective chapters written from different characters: Diana, Kendra-Rae and Shani. At first, these occasional chapters confused me, they seemed so out of place and I didn’t know how they were relevant to Nella’s plotline. But as the novel progresses everything comes together and all the previous chapters make sense and link together for the shocking ending (which I absolutely loved by the way.)
Personally, I felt like the beginning of the book went a bit too slow, things were happening but I wasn’t fully gripped. This probably explains why it would take me a while to pick up the book, but once I picked it up I would read it for long periods of time before putting it back down. The majority of the suspense, drama and revelations happen in the last 100 pages, give or take. I figured out one of the twists about halfway through the book before it was confirmed; however, I thought that this was the major twist and was disappointed I had figured out so soon, I was wrong. In the grand scheme of things, it was a minor twist, one that I feel like Harris wanted us to figure out on our own to throw us of the surprising ending.
Nella was a brilliantly fleshed out character. Her life didn’t just revolve around her job, we see what she likes to do in her free time and learn about her past and her struggles with not feeling ‘black enough.’ The minor side characters, like Vera, Richard, Maliaka, were also well thought out but not to the point where they became too central focused.
Another reason that I personally liked this book was that it gave excellent insight into how the publishing industry works, especially editorial. I’m someone who wants to start their publishing career, specifically in editorial, so not only was this an entertaining novel but it also acted as little titbits of information for me on how publishing works and the things to expect when you are an editorial assistant.
In conclusion, The Other Black Girl was an exceptional novel that focuses on the racism and microaggressions that are still prevalent in today’s society. It is filled with twists and turns and a shock ending, I just wish the first 200 pages were a little bit more fast-paced. I highly recommend that everyone read this.
Review by Megan.