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  • Writer's pictureAllison Darty

Thoughts on "The Other Black Girl" by Zakiya Dalila Harris.

Updated: Dec 3, 2021


I really wanted to enjoy this book. I tried to remain optimistic despite feeling overwhelmingly unimpressed after the first 100 pages, but 200 pages in my feelings never changed.

Brief Synopsis

Nella Rogers has been working at Wagner Books as an editorial assistant and notably the only black person in the office for years. Until new girl, Hazel May McCall, is hired and quickly gains the attention of everyone at Wagner, including CEO Richard Wagner. Nella then starts receiving anonymous notes insisting that she leave Wagner. Now Nella, feeling more isolated than ever has to figure out who's threatening her job, and why and how Hazel has seemingly risen to the top much quicker than her.

Review (Contains Spoilers)

One of the most disappointing aspects of this novel was the dialogue. Have you ever been on Twitter and find yourself reading a thread of two "stan" accounts arguing about how one's favorite artist is superior to the other's and you find yourself disgusted by the overuse of AAVE, African American Vernacular English, because you know for a fact that the user behind the words is not Black? Yea that's what reading this book felt like, except, and perhaps this is the most jarring part, the user behind the words is Black. The way the main characters interacted and spoke with each other made me feel as if black women weren't actually the target audience of the book, which as I write this I am realizing that even after completing the book, I'm still not sure who the target audience is.

"Don't look in your lap, said her inner Angela Davis, and then another Davis spoke up. Viola. 'You is kind. You is smart. You is important.'"

I mean come on seriously?

Anyways, I didn't want the dialogue to deter me from reading the novel, so I pressed on because let's be honest I've read "cringier" works before, I spent an unholy amount of time on Wattpad when I was younger, I can power through anything, but the decision to continue led to even more disappointment.

After 200 or so pages, I thought I had the villain of the novel figured out. It had to be White Corporate America and the way it breeds toxic work environments for black women by isolating, overworking and gaslighting us for years with no promotion. And of course, in this novel we'll see the two main black women band together and take them down one microaggression at a time. Maybe even start their own publishing company and rise to the top together. Right? Wrong.

Get this, the big bad of the story is....wait for it... "The Other Black Girl". Now to say that I didn't see this coming would be a lie. I was just hoping, praying even, for a different outcome. The book desperately needed a light at the end of the tunnel and the other black girl teaming up with the white CEO to "convert" all black girls into becoming more digestible to their white counterparts wasn't it. Oh not to mention the team of pro-black "Resistance" members who did absolutely nothing throughout the entire novel to save our barely beloved main character, Nella Rogers. The whole storyline was honestly so cringe, and the fact that it all unfolded in the last 40 or so pages only made matters worse.

Now don't get me wrong of course I understand the importance of speaking on the pressure to succeed imposed on black women in predominantly white work environments and addressing the competition that said pressure creates amongst other black women within those same environments. I totally understand the need to have that discussion, but taking 300+ pages to finally explain that a magic hair grease white washes black women just felt like the wrong approach.

But I digress.

One Last Thought

When we all went to the movie theatre back in 2017 to see Jordan Peele's political horror film "Get Out", did we all see the same movie? There's no way we could have, because after reading "The Other Black Girl" I just can't imagine how the comparison was drawn. Besides the obvious satirical approach to struggles within the black community, TOBG with its exaggerated take on code switching in the workplace and Get Out dealing with a physical appropriation of black culture by white people, I'm just not seeing the connection between the two. So maybe just maybe we should stop comparing every black thriller, no matter the medium, to "Get Out".

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