Judith D Collins
The Other Black Girl
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: 06/01/21
My Rating: 5 Stars +
Top Books of 2021 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.
Buy the Book
GMA’s’ June Book Club pick: ‘The Other Black Girl’ by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Harris’ electric and thrilling debut novel is being described as "Get Out" meets "The Devil Wears Prada," and has twists upon twists that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Read an Excerpt in The Cut
Q&A Elevator Ride
with the the Author
Praise for The Other Black Girl
"The Other Black Girl’ Is an Immersive, Genre-Bending Debut."—New York Times Book Review
Filled with twists both unsettling and unexpected . . . such a timely read.”
“A thrilling, edgier Devil Wears Prada that explores privilege and racism.”
― Washington Post
“[A] buzzy debut set in publishing that explores race and class in the workplace.”
― The Guardian
"A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary . . . will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist."
― The Rumpus
“A sly satire and thriller rolled into one.”
“A brilliant, twisty, and highly relevant thriller…Perfect for fans of Alyssa Cole’s When No One Is Watching, or Amina Akhtar’s #FashionVictim.”
― Lit Hub
“Very, very sharp social commentary about racial tension and bias…my money’s on it being the ‘it’ book of the summer.”
— Deputy Editor of The New York Times Book Review Tina Jordan on WNYC’s All of It
“A big-buzzing, thriller-edged literary debut.”
― Library Journal
“While the plot takes a darker turn into thriller territory, this read is ideal for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or dismissed in the workplace.”
“A dazzling, darkly humorous story…the novel overflows with witty dialogue and skillfully drawn characters, its biggest strength lies in its penetrating critique of gatekeeping in the publishing industry and the deleterious effects it can have on Black editors. This insightful, spellbinding book packs a heavy punch.”
― Publishers Weekly (starred)
"A can't-miss title for 2021."
― Harper's Bazaar
"We’re going to hear a lot about this book for years to come, and I can’t wait."
“Witty, inventive, and smart, The Other Black Girl goes deeper to take on class privilege, race, and gender in a narrative that slyly plays along the edges of convention. Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut is a brilliant combustion of suspense, horror, and social commentary that leaves no assumption unchallenged and no page unturned.”
— WALTER MOSLEY, internationally bestselling author of Devil in a Blue Dress
"OMG, as the kids say. This is the funniest, wildest, deepest, most thought-provoking ride of a book. I have been Nella. Every black woman has been Nella. Zakiya Dalila Harris has pulled back the curtain on the publishing industry, but in doing so, she has also perfectly captured a social dynamic that exists in job cultures as varied as tech, finance, academia, even retail and fast food. Oh, beware of the 'OBGs'—Other Black Girls—y’all. As we should all be aware of the psychic cost to black women of making ourselves palatable to institutions that use our cultural cache for their own ends while disregarding any part of our hearts and minds that they either can’t or won’t understand."
— ATTICA LOCKE, New York Times bestselling author of Heaven, My Home
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.”
— EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel
“An intimate and specific look at the joys and pains of being a Black woman, especially one working in a majority-white industry... The Other Black Girl is hysterical, intimate, and warm—and bristling with dread. Every page pulls you deeper into the nightmare, coiling tighter and tighter until before you know it, there's no escape.”
— ELISABETH THOMAS, author of Catherine House
“This thriller will be one you won't be able to put down.”
― Today Show
“The Other Black Girl is unlike anything I've ever read before. Wholly original, powerful, and a gripping page-turner. This is the kind of book that turns authors into stars and the readers into rabid fans. I cannot wait to see what Zakiya does next.”
— PHOEBE ROBINSON, bestselling author of You Can't Touch My Hair
“The Other Black Girl is a brilliant, witty, thought-provoking book readers will find hard to put down. Full of twists, Harris has delivered a riveting account of the power dynamics Black women must navigate.”
— MAURICE CARLOS RUFFIN, author of We Cast a Shadow
"Electrifying and ingenious, Zakiya Dalila Harris's The Other Black Girl is essential reading!"
— TERRY MCMILLAN, New York Times bestselling author of It's Not All Downhill From Here
“Wise and funny and it does what the best books do—it opens up a whole world of two young Black women in the very white world of publishing, making the narrative both eye-opening social commentary and a delicious thriller. A mega-talented new author who deserves all the buzz building for her now—and every accolade she is surely going to get.”
— CAROLINE LEAVITT, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and With or Without You
“A psychological thriller for the modern-day working girl . . . filled with suspenseful twists and turns.”
"Racist behavior in the workplace, white colleagues’ awkward attempts to pretend it doesn’t exist, and the exhaustion of being Black in white spaces are all encapsulated in a pitch-perfect way by Harris . . . this compelling debut thriller will be in demand; a must for public libraries."
― Booklist (starred)
"Slyly brilliant . . . a nuanced page-turner, as sharp as it is fun. A biting social satire–cum-thriller; dark, playful, and brimming with life."
― Kirkus Reviews (starred)
"I tore through Zakiya Dalila Harris's The Other Black Girl, a hilarious yet spine-chilling send-up of the whiteness of the publishing world, with my jaw on the floor. Its detailed dissection of the complex forces that curtail Black ambition is by turns tender and utterly lacerating, combining the nuance of a Kiley Reid with the twisted gut-punches of Bamboozled. It draws you in with a laugh and a smile, then shoves you into a nightmare you won't be able to shake off. A simply brilliant debut."
— AMY GENTRY, bestselling author of Good as Gone, Last Woman Standing, and Bad Habits
"This twisty thriller will resonate with anyone who has struggled to find her voice as the only Black woman in the room."
“[A] brilliant debut …The novel takes some bold stylistic risks that pay off beautifully, leaving the reader longing for more of Harris's words and unique view on the world.”
"This book is the perfect mixture of edge-of-your-seat thrills and biting social commentary that will get readers talking."
Profile in New York Times
Novel Suspects "Author Spotlight"
"A top-notch page-turner!"
A modern-day psychological literary thriller.
A winner out of the gate, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut, THE OTHER BLACK GIRL is timely, sassy, full of humor, horror, and social commentary. The author tackles highly charged topics such as #complexfemalerelationships #racism #microaggressions #tokenism #racepolitics #codeswitching #diversity and #officepolitcs, especially in the publishing world.
Nella Rogers, the protagonist in TOBG is driven and ambitious. She is working as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books, a Manhattan publishing house. Nella is a young black woman and aspires to become an editor. You will root for her to the end.
She is the only black girl at Wagner. It is hard enough dealing with the white colleagues and bosses, but now a newcomer. Another black girl joins the firm.
At first, she is overjoyed at the thought of another black girl joining the firm. Someone she can count on, confide in, and understand what she goes through every day. She would understand race and culture and things such as hair, clothes, etc. She would understand the sensitivities of critiquing black authors and how to maneuver the predominately white workforce.
However, things do not go as planned—quite the opposite.
Hazel-May McCall is enigmatic, and soon Nella suspects something off about her. Can she trust her? She seems to be (too) friendly with everyone. Is she looking to get her fired? Why can’t they be friends? What is her agenda?
Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.
Is it the Publisher or someone who wants her out, or is it Hazel May? What is the purpose of the notes, and who wants her out and why? At first, she ignores it, but it happens again. She and her best friend do a little sleuthing.
If the book were not intriguing enough, other unexpected twists add—humor, supernatural, fantasy, magical realism, and horror with a sinister vibe.
You will think of popular movies and TV series: the new Amazon Series THEM, The Devil Wears Prada, The Stepford Wives, Get Out, Parasite, Bad Hair, and more.
The author keeps you guessing with the hair products, hair, accessories, parties, and interactions with this mysterious new black girl. Kind of voodoo/eerie-like. In addition, we meet her white boyfriend, her best friend, and two women from the past also blended into the storyline.
With a keen eye for details, Harris deftly unspools a rich narrative with compelling characters and keeps the mystery and suspense alive with Nella and Hazel May.
This twisty satire, tackles ongoing issues of race, class, social injustice, and microaggressions mixed with wit from stonewalling, gaslighting, and all sorts of interesting tactics.
To move up the ladder and get along in the workplace, what do these women of color have to give up along the way?. It is like brainwashing which reminds me of THEM.
It is hard enough for white women in the workplace, and being a black female adds another layer of complexity. I still think we need a black female President. If you want a smart woman, hire a black woman. In my opinion, they are the best.
Many of my best girlfriends are black and hear what they must overcome to get where they are and the struggles daily to achieve and remain in their standing. No one is smarter than a black woman who has overcome many obstacles to gain the power they deserve.
I am thrilled this story has received much buzz as well deserved, and the author brings a ton of experience to the story. Well done! Highly recommend. I think we have another Terry McMillan with a twist!
Look for my Elevator Ride with the author coming June for more behind the scenes and this talented debut author. I cannot wait to see what is next! We need more of these stories.
Watch for the exciting Hulu adaption and looking forward to seeing this play out on the big screen! Congrats to the author.
If you are as big a fan of Younger TV, as I am, you will enjoy TOBG. (one of my favorites and enjoying this last season).
A special thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
On a side note: This book resonated with me in many ways. I spent (20 yrs) career in the publishing/media world as Associate Publisher and later Publisher (from NY, Atlanta, DC, Chicago, CA) with two of them being the largest national residential and commercial media publications, as well as real estate investments, and business publications both print and online. I have many stories, but one comes to mind where I walked in as a new Publisher with a large multi-media company and started changing things for the better, immediately after observing. (I do not like injustices of any kind). I discovered only ONE black woman in management. Only one! When spending more time with her, found she did not have the proper tools or software for the massive amount of research for her department (that my prior company had) thereby causing hours and hours of added work for her and our critical 4 week deadlines, and her staff. She stated that they had done nothing to remedy the situation. I immediately went to bat for her and was her voice, when she was afraid to speak up, but she had to learn to trust me. I cannot fault her for that which we see a glimpse here in the book. I ultimately was instrumental in getting her the tools she needed. New software, a promotion, and more diverse support staff. We became friends for years, even after I left this publishing/media company. Many of my best friends are strong black women, and I highly respect them as some of the most intelligent women I know personally and professionally. I loved Nella and Malaika's friendship in the book. Ironically, I called this same black woman at home the morning I was resigning because they screwed me over after not paying my bonus and commissions, so I was the one who left. So yes, politics are out there in publishing, media, and most industries. But we either put up with it or leave, and in my case, over the years, I would leave after giving it my best shot as to why I work for myself today! And it sounds like Zakiya Dalila Harris did just that. BRAVO. Hence, we have this highly entertaining book that will inspire women of any color, race, or class. If she stayed we might not have this story. I have a feeling Nella will find her way, as well.
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About the Author
Zakiya Dalila Harris spent nearly three years in editorial at Knopf/Doubleday before leaving to write her debut novel The Other Black Girl. Prior to working in publishing, Zakiya received her MFA in creative writing from The New School. Her essays and book reviews have appeared in Guernica and The Rumpus. Read More
Dead Writer Drama Podcast
In this monthly series, co-hosts Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Zakiya Dalila Harris discuss the professional feuds, sex scandals, messy public breakups, and controversial legacies of history’s literary legends and how those are relevant in light of current culture, issues, discussions and literature.
By bringing these authors to life through a modern lens, we’ll gain a deeper understanding of their work and legacies. LISTEN