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The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Contemporary fiction

The Other Black Girl

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Zakiya Dalila Harris, on your first book!

by Zakiya Dalila Harris

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Quick take

A whip-smart, entertaining tale of one assistant's dawning realization that her dream job is anything but.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Millenial

    Millennial

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BookAboutBooks

    Book about books

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unsettling

    Unsettling

Synopsis

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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Other Black Girl.
The Other Black Girl

Prologue

December 1983

Grand Central Terminal

Midtown, Manhattan

Stop fussing at it, now. Leave it alone.

But my nails found my scalp anyway, running from front to back to front again. My reward was a moment of sweet relief, followed by a familiar flood of dry, searing pain.

Stop it. Stop it.

I’d already learned that the more I scratched, the more it’d resemble the burn of a bad perm—a bad perm that had been stung by fifty wasps and then soused with moonshine. My small opportunity for reprieve would come only after the train started moving when I could finally close my eyes and take comfort in the growing distance between me and New York City. Still, I continued to scrape at the itch incessantly, my attention shifting to another startling concern: We weren’t moving yet.

My eyes darted to the strip of train platform visible through the open doors, my mind moving faster than I’d moved through Grand Central Terminal just minutes earlier. What if someone followed me here?

Slowly, carefully, I raised myself up to check. On the left side of the car were a young brunette mother and her baby, clad in matching itchy-looking red winter coats with black velvet lapels. On the right was a gray-haired, greasy-looking man with his forehead smashed against the glass window, snoring so loudly that I could almost feel the train car shake. We were still the same four we’d been when I’d ducked into this car five minutes earlier.

Good.

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Why I love it

I am a sucker for a book with relatable characters, an inside peek into office culture, and a devilish twist, and The Other Black Girl did not disappoint. From Nella Rogers’s first whiff of cocoa butter wafting through the cubicles of Wagner Publishing, you know things are amiss in this whip-smart and stunning debut.

Nella is the only Black woman working in the editorial department of a NYC publishing house. Exhausted by the daily microaggressions and isolation, she is overjoyed when Harlem-born Hazel McCall joins the company. But just as they begin swapping natural hair care tips and boyfriend stories, mysterious and threatening notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk, warning her to leave Wagner Publishing. Is Hazel who she says she is? Who wants Nella to leave Wagner and why?

I devoured this book! I was hooked from the cleverly nuanced depiction of life as a Black woman in the predominantly white world of publishing to its sly social commentaries on racism and the need to be everything to everyone. I was immediately drawn in by Harris’s unsparing voice and her keen observations of what it takes to navigate that new and nebulous space called adulthood. Everything that makes this book so deliciously good are the same things that make it so heartbreakingly authentic—things like the toxicity of office politics and the searing angst of trying to fit in or whether you should make the effort at all.

Zakiya doesn’t miss a beat in this book, right up to the last mind-blowing twist!

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Member ratings (5,410)

  • Brittany O.

    Portsmouth, VA

    Well written social horror with a creeping sense of dread throughout, the most horrifying thing being not the “villains” but social constraints and (micro?)aggressions. Definitely will stay with me

  • Jessica H.

    Land O Lakes, FL

    I've heard that the author describes this book as The Devil Wears Prada meets Get Out. It's rare to see racism and white privilege explored in a slow burn literary thriller, but it definitely works.

  • Mackenzie H.

    Elmhurst, IL

    A gripping, thought-provoking, powerful story about the way racism in the workplace takes advantage of women of color. Beautifully written and sobering. This should be required reading—outstanding!

  • Devan M.

    Bellefonte, PA

    Smart and original, this made me think. I thought the commentary on workplace politics, microaggressions, white fragility, the weight of racial trauma, and white supremacy was so clever and creative.

  • Eleanor Z.

    Euclid, OH

    Slow burner, but one hell of a clever book! What an interesting concept! Author did such a great job making me feel unsettled, just as the protagonist was throughout the book. And that ending...wow!

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