... occasional chapters seem to rise out of nowhere, but they are actual plot thickeners, devices that will ultimately take The Other Black Girl out of the realm of 'office novel' and into another genre entirely, and finally toward a kind of sad and wholly earned brilliance ... Harris...has a great deal to say about what it means to be a woman in the workplace—and how wrong it is to refer to women as 'girls.' One of the best scenes in The Other Black Girl takes place in a salon, with dozens of women of different ages trying out new coiffures. It's not a coincidence that the central conceit of the book has to do with hair, that longstanding preoccupation of the femme. Harris makes her entrance as an author with singular style. Whatever she does next might seem quieter, but watch for it: It will be brilliant.
Race politics is at the very heart of this novel. The book explores how the dynamics between Black and white people potentially distort the Black relationship — the fortified bonds and loyalties, expectations unwittingly nurtured and the indirect competition provoked ... Despite the fact that Harris uses three other points of view in this novel, I could not help but feel that the story could have benefited from an additional perspective, one that was not in agreement with the overwhelming consensus and was not immediately framed as the wrong view ... Two-thirds of the way in, The Other Black Girl takes on traits of the horror genre with a dash of magical realism. There is certainly something very Jordan Peele-esque about the plot ... as I adjusted to the new element, my bewilderment morphed into pleasure at Harris’s ingenuity and creativity ... Still, I hold the view that the somewhat fantastical element introduced — which I can’t shed more light on without completely ruining the fun — took away the agency of some of the characters in the novel ... Harris’s writing propels you forward through the story. She can deliver paragraphs of back story and inner monologue without leaving her reader feeling overwhelmed or disengaged ... Harris succeeds in capturing office machinations with a deftness and grace that brings it all to life ... I am familiar with setting, nature and objects being interpreted as character in a work of fiction, so I will take the liberty of adding hair to this canon. I could tell you the hair texture and style of every single Black character in this novel. The attention to hair was not superfluous, nor was it done carelessly; it moved the story forward ... The seriousness of the topic being handled in The Other Black Girl, and the fact that it shared some minor similarities with the horror genre, did not stand in the way of it also being bright and funny. You may not agree with every opinion or every statement laid out in this work, but you will turn page after page after page in your eagerness to unravel this unique tale.
The Other Black Girl is about many things—friendship, the humdrum office culture—but its driving pulse is a sharp critique of the publishing industry’s lack of diversity ... In the novel, we see firsthand the industry’s uniformity and its harrowing effects on nonwhite staff. Harris’s prose creates a deep realism, allowing readers to experience Nella’s loneliness and isolation at her job ... The best satire reveals the skeletons in our closets and guides us to a deeper sense of truth. This is where the book thrives: Harris strategically inserts satire during moments in which characters demonstrate unconscious bias, allowing us to see the nuances of racism. Harris forces us to dwell in these uncomfortable, awkward moments; they linger even after the book has ended ... In The Other Black Girl, Harris creates a space for black writers and writers of color to tell their own stories in their own way.
The Other Black Girl isn’t a story about finding solidarity or even about speaking up; it probes something more unsettling. As the novel presents competing ideas of success at the office, and the sacrifices that might entail, it evolves into an intense psychological thriller ... Although Harris’s book takes up the office novel’s critique of opaque and soul-crushing hierarchies, it also flirts with race transformation, a theme explored in decades of African American literature ... Harris formulates a central dilemma: For many Black people, the office setting becomes a microcosm of the version of the United States that sees them as vessels of struggle and tension. To push back against that system feels essential. And yet the Black experience in America has never been solely defined by struggle ... Diana or Kendra, Hazel or Nella, career or identity: This is the binary that pulses through The Other Black Girl. The novel shows a workplace pushing individuals into ever-hardening, limiting roles. It captures, through Nella especially, the stories some Black employees feel they must tell themselves about themselves to survive all-white environments ... If The Other Black Girl often swerves beyond the conventions of the genre, into territory between psychological thriller and sci-fi, it may be because the specific experience of the Black employee—haunted by precarity and tension—can be almost otherworldly.
Is the novel worth the hype? Yes. It should be at the top of your summer reading list ... An engaging subplot revolves around a Wagner book that hit the bestseller list in 1983 and the soured friendship between its author, Diana Gordon, and its editor, her childhood friend, Kendra Rae Phillips ... Nella and Kendra’s story lines intersect in surprising ways as the novel transitions into a riveting thriller revolving around a covert brainwashing effort and an underground resistance movement. One of the pleasures of The Other Black Girl is its unapologetic appeal to Black female readers ... Harris is a capable, funny writer who crafts a compelling, sympathetic and complex protagonist. Glimpsing Nella’s interior life and friendship with Malaika feels like overhearing the real thoughts and conversations of a young Black woman. Harris creates well-written characters without pandering to Black readers or translating African American cultural shorthand for a White audience. While I generally enjoyed this book, the transitions between the present-day story featuring Nella and Hazel to the past narrative were occasionally awkward, and one major plot point felt underdeveloped. And yet, I believe that the novel will assume its place as a cultural artifact that resonates especially with Black female readers.
Malaika's quippy humor is always welcome on the page—as are the insights often tucked inside her jokes ... In this debut novel, Zakiya Dalila Harris is particularly skilled at writing dialogue that has a sheen of politeness over its infuriating subtext ... There is humor in these sections, and a surprising network of connections that Harris skillfully builds from the novel's first page: The work is expertly paced. Despite the more daring, absurd and surprising elements, they do not overshadow how superbly drawn Nella's character is—a true accomplishment in this remarkable debut.
Brilliantly positioned at the intersection of satire and social horror, The Other Black Girl incorporates subversively sharp and sly cultural commentary into an addictive and surprisingly dark tale of suspense ... Harris displays a distinctive style all her own. With a flair for metaphor and a carefully calibrated surrealist perspective, she stops just short of over-the-top ... Thoughtful, provocative and viscerally entertaining, The Other Black Girl is a genre-bending creative triumph.
Some of Ms. Harris’s office-place burlesques are straightforward and effective, especially those that portray the ways that the white corporate world’s purblind attempts to 'diversify' result in tokenism and minstrelsy. The story’s intrigue ramps up as its bizarre supernatural element emerges (it involves a secret cabal and a means of mind control through which black women are brainwashed into tolerating everyday racism), but likewise its vision of society clarifies into something...bleak and predetermined ... For black women, authenticity has been banished to the underground and the only way to succeed in the world is to sell out.
With page-turning, character-driven intrigue, and a thoughtful examination of middle class Black female life, Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel positions the author in a literary tradition helmed by the great Harlem Renaissance writer Nella Larsen ... Despite these heavy themes, The Other Black Girl is accessible and enjoyable ... perfect summer reading: smart, engaging, and meaningful ... is for Black women who want books that help them make sense of the ways we are trapped and, through art, encourage us to think carefully about ways to be free. Harris interrogates white supremacy in fresh ways, identifying, as Larsen did, the terror of American racism as it forces Black women to mask their authentic selves before they can move, literally and figuratively, up. What happens, Harris asks, when the mask becomes the wearer, and the nine-to-five performance of corporate assimilation becomes a permanent condition? With her witty conclusion, Harris also examines white supremacy as it enters Black women, poisoning the Black woman’s head, and turning them against their counterparts, the other Black girls who are, in fact, them.
Harris delivers searing commentary on racism in publishing through the eyes of Nella, the only Black employee at the fictional Wagner Books ... The author is uncompromising in her descriptions of the micro-aggressions Nella experiences at the office ... It would be easy to pit Nella and Hazel against each other in a clichéd narrative of women in competition, but Harris knows that there’s no satisfying conclusion to be reached in doing so.
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, whose introspective Nella will stay with readers ... this compelling debut thriller will be in demand; a must for public libraries.
Congratulations are in order for debut novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris. Her first book The Other Black Girl, is one of the most highly-anticipated novels of the summer, if not the year, and it lives up to the hype ... An intriguing mash-up of mystery, thriller, sci-fi and social commentary ... Dalila Harris’ book peels back the curtain on recent efforts of corporate America to embrace diversity, but also shows the weaknesses behind its intentions. It’s a sharp, surprising, original work by an author with a long future ahead of her.
... imaginative and audacious ... There are moments when The Other Black Girl feels like two novels woven together as one: a satire that uproots the insidious ways race and class merge in office dialogue and politics, and a thriller with echoes of the great science fiction writer Octavia Butler. I wish Harris had been given more room to set up consistent signposts, and to delve more deeply into some of the secondary characters and subplots for greater clarity and balance. But it is true that daring novels often break with form and take chances. Readers should relish this glimpse into the publishing world and its original take on black professional women striving to hold on to their authentic selves and their tresses.
[A] slyly brilliant debut ... If it sounds like a moralistic sledgehammer of a novel—well, it would be if Harris were any less good. In her hands, though, it’s a nuanced page-turner, as sharp as it is fun. A biting social satire–cum-thriller; dark, playful, and brimming with life.
Harris debuts with a dazzling, darkly humorous story about the publishing industry and the challenges faced by a Black employee ... While 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.