Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions from being the only Black employee at Wagner Books, 26-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel joins the company. But when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust and begins receiving threatening messages from someone who wants her out of a job.
... 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.