... 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.
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.
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 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.
... nimble-witted ... It’s all creepy and sad and unsettling, but it’s heightened just enough that it’s all a little bit funny, too ... Mostly, The Other Black Girl is just enormously fun. This book is confronting genuine issues about the problems Black women face as they navigate all-white spaces, and about how even liberal institutions like book publishing have made themselves all-white — but it does so with a joyous verve that will have readers galloping through every page. It’s a genuine blast of a read, and it will change the way you think about cocoa butter forever.
While The Other Black Girl may come off as another office drama novel, there is something much more sinister skulking beneath the surface ... Harris does an excellent job at unraveling intricate and complicated topics about Black life in predominantly white work spaces. Drawing from her own experiences working at the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf, Harris unflinchingly builds a workplace that feels unsettlingly familiar – both in its goal to secure 'diversity hires' and its simultaneous refusal to change anything about its internal culture or its systemic inequities. It’s a conversation that is increasingly pertinent, as companies and organizations across the country attempt to address their racist and sexist practices in increasingly inauthentic ways after last year’s protests against police brutality ... While The Other Black Girl captures the frustration that so often stems from working in predominantly white offices, it also highlights another awful facet of that work culture ... The true horror of “The Other Black Girl” is that there is an undeniable truth in it. Black people must choose between tolerating an office culture that wants us to change, or working to change that office culture at the expense of job security and social rejection. And Black people must reckon with the fact that while there are many Nellas in the world, there are also many Hazels: those who are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that there is no 'other Black person' in the office. While many people dread being tokenized, there is a quiet horror to the idea that some people actually enjoy it. By the end of Harris’ novel, Black readers will be forced to ask this hard and singular question: Which one are you?
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.
In her debut novel, The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris examines racism, microaggression, and tokenism through the lens of the optics-obsessed publishing industry. Harris, who previously worked as an assistant editor at Penguin Random House, brings firsthand knowledge and mindful skepticism to a contemporary psychological horror novel about the industry she knows inside and out ... Nella’s unnerving descent into paranoia bears some resemblance to Jordan Peele’s 2017 film Get Out, but The Other Black Girl has an unsettling ending that treats resilience as a finite resource in danger of being depleted. Harris’s depiction of the publishing world is neither dishonest in its satire nor exaggerated in its critique of white liberal racism ... The Other Black Girl doesn’t exploit trauma or include gratuitous violence. Instead, the narrative’s Hitchcockian-level suspense heightens the horror of Nella’s experience.
The book is spot-on for our times. The novel drips with in-the-know wit, skewering 'well-meaning' but clueless white book publishing executives while painting the day-to-day experience of BIPOC employees who have managed to penetrate the industry's Ivy-filled halls ... The disturbing message underlying Harris's explosive, Get Out-esque satire has to do with code-switching and microaggressions ... As uncomfortable a truth as that is, Harris explores it with humor and memorable characters. It’s the kind of story that may not only keep you up at night, it will likely haunt your dreams.
[A] daring, darkly funny thriller ... The book is primarily a workplace drama about how fraught and exhausting it is to be a minority employee, even in an ostensibly liberal industry like publishing. Harris - who worked for three years in publishing, an industry that remains predominantly white - depicts that tension brilliantly ... By the time it arrives at its bold, brutal ending, it has deftly served up the fissures within the black community and shown how horrifying it can be to be a minority.
... an insider’s satire ... Laughter is generated by the reader’s ability to recognise stereotypes. It is like those tweets that rhetorically ask, “What books on a man’s shelf are a red flag for you?” At Wagner, it’s red flags all the way down. These are the cues of late-night show-style politics: raging against the machine, but generally accepting its priorities; telling jokes, while acknowledging that their frisson comes from being in on the punchline before it arrives. (David Foster Wallace, Vanity Fair, Portland, Oregon: all duly skewered) ... Harris has an ear for dialogue but the novel’s pacing is television serial-uneven ... Harris is too skilled in her characterisation, too smooth in the construction of her prose, to fall entirely prey to this. But The Other Black Girl feels like it has a tighter novel buried within it. It is not the devastating cri de coeur or reinvention of the 'office novel' it is being heralded as. What it is being heralded as, though, does at least tell us – in racial politics as much as in publishing – that sometimes you have to gamble on beating the casino, even when you know you can’t win.
Beyond [Nella] there are other, not wholly successful or satisfactorily resolved narrative threads ... For all that, The Other Black Girl is a fast-paced, vivid, thought-provoking ride, skewering — often wincingly — white liberal anxieties. If it makes readers laugh, however, it may be hollowly.
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.
... sly and unsettling ... a genre-defying satire that offers a fresh take on the insidious nature of racism in overwhelmingly white corporate spaces ... Harris, who started writing the novel when she was herself an assistant editor at Knopf Doubleday in Manhattan, is uncompromisingly adept at immersing the narrative in the microaggressions that black women encounter every day and the compromises they must make ... The dialogue in The Other Black Girl crackles with the biting wit, especially in Nella’s interactions with her best friend Malaika, that lends the story its satirical edge ... Even if all of these stories, which lend texture and context to the plot, don’t quite converge satisfactorily, this book is still an engrossing contemplation of the gap between success and authenticity.
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.
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.
Harris crafts a complex and layered character in Nella Rogers ... Harris is adept at refracting awkward office politics; the false niceties exchanged between co-workers and the annoying office rituals, things implied but not said ... At times the dialogue feels a little too constructed, almost as if it has been written straight for the screen, but I still found myself whizzing through it, hungry for more. It is the blending of the personal and political that really brings the story to life ... as bold as it is brilliant.
... 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.
The Other Black Girl is strongest in its penetrating look at book publishing, augmented by snappy, often witty dialogue, sharply created characters and well-placed pop culture references. The hilarious — and realistic — scene in which Nella firmly but diplomatically confronts the white author’s stereotypical depiction of a young Black woman is unforgettable, as is his undiplomatic reaction ... the suspense/mystery aspects of The Other Black Girl are often confusing and feel like an afterthought ... this doesn’t detract from Harris’ intelligent story and smart turn of phrase, and a stunning ending.
As a publishing professional myself, there is so much I could say about Harris’ spot-on depiction of life on the lower rungs of the publishing hierarchy ... Harris captures each of these demands brilliantly, but more to the point, she highlights the ways that a woman like Nella, already managing so many expectations, can become the target of microaggressions even more easily than someone at the top ... Full of shocking, razor-sharp insights about the publishing world, racism in the workplace, and the tangled ways that white people have forced their Black friends and colleagues to compete against one another, The Other Black Girl is the most mind-blowing thriller I have read in a long time, and Zakiya Dalila Harris is the voice we have needed in contemporary literature for even longer. Read this book. You won’t regret it.
Authenticity versus success? Exhilarating and unpredictable, The Other Black Girl presents us with the ultimate moral dilemma. Waiting with bated breath has been fantastically worth it: Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel is a masterpiece spun with threads of both a stark reality mixed with a touch of the supernatural ... Harris’ humorous descriptions of office culture are vivid and visceral – unsurprising given her own three years spent in the editorial department of Knopf Doubleday ... We’re gripped from the outset; Harris’ conversational writing style and wry humour makes the 350-page book devourable within hour ... Switches from third- to first-person between chapters seem, at first, jarring, but as the plot thickens, the jigsaw pieces slide faster together ... The meanders turn into sharp bends, the story flowing faster after every turn. Unable to second-guess the plot too soon, no one could predict the ending before they got there. As we approach the true climax, we start to see the bigger picture in mounting detail. Brilliantly devised, Harris uses her writing to both pose a question and make a point. Darwinian tones infiltrate the storyline to turn the novel not only into an expert thriller but a contribution to philosophical debate ... forces us to tentatively take a few steps back to examine the attitudes and biases that remain firmly in place in the working world of today.
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.
[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.
The sense of being a fraud in the face of Hazel’s 'more authentic' Blackness is one of the book’s more interesting themes ... It’s never clear if we’re supposed to sympathize with Nella’s plight, or if lines that describe her soul as 'sounding a lot like Angela Davis' are intended to endear her to us or make us cringe ... That lack of clarity extends to the plot, which can be described, at best, as politically confused ... there are murky (and underexplained) forces at play here, forces that ultimately deny Hazel her agency.