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 the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when 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 cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling.
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 realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career.
*This book was sent to me by Ariatu Press, please read our disclaimer policy for more information!*
Disclaimer: Please remember just because I didn’t like a book doesn’t mean you won’t either. Everyone’s taste is different and unless the book has inappropriate/harmful/abusive views, I’ll never not encourage you guys to read it.
I’m not sure if this book was pitched correctly.
I think that’s the only way I can put it. The Other Black Girl by Zaikya Dalia Harris made my ‘most anticipated list of 2021‘ but it didn’t live up to the hype at all.
However, before I get into why this book just didn’t do it for me. I’ll break down what I did like about it.
Pitched as Get Out meets Devil Wears Prada, I was so READY for this book. Considering, I work in publishing I felt like this would be a book I could relate to.
Filled with themes of racism, friendships and mystery, Zakiya Dalia Harris’ debut novel strips back the publishing industry and layers the story by discussing racism and microaggression in detail. Whilst it is no secret that publishing has long since had an issue with diversity, this novel delves into this with greater analysis. However, the mystery and thriller aspect of this novel ties another layer into this novel…one that is designed to leave you uncomfortable throughout the book.
I liked Nella as a character most of the time. Her determination, her unapologetic blackness shone through her passages. I sympathised with her irritation and doubts about what she could or couldn’t say to her peers in the workplace. I understood her love for books and even the microaggression she experienced on a daily basis.
Whew. I felt that with my soul.
“Her colleagues had made it clear very early on that they didn’t really see her as a young Black woman, but as a young woman who just so happened to be Black…An Obama of publishing…”
There is no doubt that Zaikya Dalia Harris can write. She’s a gifted writer with extremely well-placed metaphors and beautiful internal dialogues. Her explanation and description of micro-aggression and racism were astounding at times. And for that alone, I would rate the book highly. She did it beautifully.
Even though, it definitely took the reader away from the actual plot alot.
Put it this way, I got to page 90 and was still wondering when the thriller aspect of the book would start.
And at that point, I have to wonder what happened? This book has been pitched as a thriller but it starts closer to halfway through the book? I get explaining back story and building tension but it felt like the character spent alot of the time explaining racism and micro-aggression.
I liked the exploration of race in the beginning. I often found myself silently cheering on Nella when she voiced something I could never put into words. My subsconscious loving the affirmation and confirmation I was silently getting for many experiences I’ve often downplayed or disregarded in my head.
But I would have preferred for the explanation of racism to be woven into the plot rather than a large build up and suddenly, we’re thrown into the thriller. It honestly seemed like the thriller aspect of the novel was forgotten up until the mid-way point and the rest of the narrative was spent trying to claw it back.
If I’m being honest, this book felt a tad all over the place for me.
I wanted to understand the multiple narratives but I got to the anti-climatic ending and wondered what the point of them was? I, personally, could have done without them because it just felt like nothing was tied together.
And the ending? I don’t even want to spoil the book. But it left me feeling extremely uncomfortable and irritated. I get the sentiment behind it. But I could go on about why I felt the last bit didn’t tie up properly for me.
- It felt rushed – it was suddenly slipped in at the end and I was left trying to figure out where this plot point came from
- What exactly is it trying to say about the Black community? Maybe I’ve interpreted it wrong but I’m happy to discuss with someone if they have any ideas.
I’m a firm believer that Black women should always support each other. And I get that the level of support may not be reciprocated at all times. But I’m not sure how I feel about the way they were portrayed in this book towards the end – but perhaps that’s just part of the thriller. Either way, it didn’t do it for me.
“Nella didn’t know what to make of any of it. The kind of celebrity status that Hazel had achieved in such a short span of time rubbed her in a way that bothered her, and it bothered her that she was bothered at all—especially since she and Hazel were supposed to be on the same team.”
Now, I need Zaikya Dalia Harris to know that I don’t blame her at all. This had the potential to be a PHENOMENAL book. Like mind-blowing. The characters were there. The plot was there. The tension was there. All the ingredients were placed in that book but the finish was just….
So the editorial team? Where were you?
I wanna know what happened?
This book needed way more shaping than it got.
That being said, I think it would make a phenomenal TV-show. And I’d happily watch it! There were many huge plot points (near the end) that were suddenly dropped into the plot, glossed over and not explained enough. I think the TV show would be able to delve into them in more depth and perhaps weave the many different narratives together better.
I’m not saying don’t read this book. In fact, I think it’s an excellent exploration of what it feels like to be the minority in a predominantly white space. That alone deserves significant praise.
“With heightened awareness of cultural sensitivity comes great responsibility. If we’re not careful, ‘diversity’ might become an item people start checking off a list and nothing more—a shallow, shadowy thing with but one dimension.”
When it comes to the thriller aspect and the actual tying together of the plot towards the end, this book fell short.
Nevertheless, I’m excited to see what Zakiya Dalia Harris does next! I’m sure it’ll be phenomenal.