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The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris book review


The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris book review

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris. This is a relatively new release that came out earlier this year and it was getting a whole lot of publishing buzz. I think partially because it takes place in the publishing world, but it's also a pretty good book. 

In this story you are following this black girl named Nella who works at this publishing company named wagner books. It seems like it's a pretty big publisher, like akin to one of the big five publishers like penguin or harper or something along those lines, harpercollins. 

She's basically been the only black girl working at this publishing company as long as she's been there. And at the beginning of the book she sees that another black girl has been hired at the company and she's super excited that she will no longer be the only black girl at this publishing company. 

The other black girl that gets hired is this girl named hazel. She just seems like this like super cool black girl. She lives in harlem. 

I believe she has like dreadlock or locks of some kind, i can't remember exactly. and Nella is like simultaneously like really excited and also a little bit intimidated by her. And so the two of them, you know, naturally start to talk. 

Hazel's desk is right next to nella's and so nella starts to give her a little bit tips and to like get acclimated to working at the publishing house. Hazel works under another editor and so, you know, they're just sort of like swapping information. 

One day while what nella is leaving work, she suddenly gets a note that was dropped off on her desk that she doesn't notice that just says, "leave wagner now.

So this combined with some other events that occur over the course of this book lead her to start to get suspicious about what exactly is happening here. She doesn't know who left her the note or who's doing all this stuff and she starts to become a little bit suspicious of hazel. 

Yeah, i'm just gonna leave it at that. This is a what i would categorize as like a literary suspense sort of book. Some people have been calling it a thriller. I don't wouldn't necessarily say it's a thriller because it's not really plot based. Like this is a pretty slow-moving book. 

But it is a book that does a good job of like building suspense over the course of the story, in my opinion. There are comps to this book that say it's like get out meets devil wears prada, and i can definitely see both of those being influences on this book itself. 

There is something sort of like nefarious and dark and sinister happening here to nella and she can't quite put her finger on what exactly is wrong. And then the devil wear prada aspect of it definitely comes into play with how nella is treated at work, what her boss is like, her feelings being there. 

There's also a lot of commentary in here, as you can imagine, about what it's like to be a black woman working at a publishing company, especially when you are the only one around. 

Nella reflects on the various like diversity efforts that have been made at the publishing company, especially like post george floyd and the protests and things like that. And she talks about how there were sort of like these discussions and roundtables that started and then came to a stop as people's interest in them started trickling down. 

And so she's been feeling very like isolated when it comes to this stuff. And so part of her is like really excited about this other black person working at this company, and not just a black person a black woman, but at the same time you can tell like nella has the slight insecurity about also not being the only black girl anymore. 

A lot of people tend to really like hazel, whereas Nella mostly keeps to herself. It seems like even the editor that nella is working for is starting to prefer hazel. And yeah, it's-- this book is really interesting because it takes what you think will be a very like — at least to me i had an idea of what this book was going to be going into it, and it isn't quite that. 

Like it takes these ideas of like race and racism and sort of how these things are viewed in the world and makes it more like nuanced and complicated. Like this is not necessarily as straightforward as you think it's going to be. 

Nella has like very conflicting feelings about hazel and you're not completely sure reading this book how you, as a reader, is supposed to feel about either nella or hazel. 

Like part of you starts to wonder like about what nella is doing and the questions that she's asking, and you start to wonder like is she actually a reliable narrator? Like is this gonna be one of those situations where nella is not a reliable narrow reader and therefore like things have been skewed? 

Or is it actually hazel or is it something else that's going on completely? Like there are a lot of layers to this book that and that is one of the reasons why i really enjoyed it a lot. I found this to be like a really fun slow simmer of a book. So if you are in the mood for something like that, i think this would be really good to pick up. 

But if you are in the mood for something like really plot driven, this is not going to scratch that itch. But i do think that if you're someone who has been reading a decent amount of books, like especially fiction books, around like race and racism and you're looking for something a little bit different, I honestly think that this might be up your alley, especially if you are someone who likes sort of like literary suspense books. 

If you like books that kind of get inside baseball-ery a little bit about publishing and how all of that works, i think you would like this book. I think if you like the comps of like get out and the devil wears prada, like if that sounds appealing to you, i honestly think that this kind of like lives up to that hype. 

This book also reminded me a little bit of alyssa cole's when no one is watching. I think like if you liked that one, you will probably like this one as well. But i do think that this one has a little bit more bite and depth to it than that, than when no one else is watching. 

But i also will say, without getting into spoilers, if you enjoyed sort of where that book went towards the end, this book kind of does something similar. I will say one other thing that i had a hard time with with this book is that this book does occasionally change perspectives and change timelines. 

So in this book there is also this other sort of author and editor pairing that they referred to, and you know, they go back in time. It took place i believe in the 1970s where there was this black female editor and this black female writer who published a book together under wagner books and it was a huge bestseller situation. 

Then all of a sudden like the editor disappeared and the author sold a couple more books but like basically went under the radar after that one big hit. And so there's that sort of timeline, there's the perspective from nella's point of view, and then there's one other character who you see things from their point of view but it isn't clear from the beginning who this character is. 

And so i was having a hard time sort of keeping it all straight and keeping all of the characters straight and sort of keeping all of the different stories straight. Necause you know it's a suspense book and so some of it is supposed to be kind of mysterious, but for me personally, as someone who doesn't love jumping POVs and jumping timelines and things like that, i had a harder time with those aspects of it. 

So i did want to say like if you are someone who's like me with that stuff, just know that going into it. They do eventually explain everything and i do feel like by the end it all kind of like ties together. 

But there are some aspects with like some of the other POVs that also feel like very unresolved because they start to focus on nella storyline a lot more, which, you know, makes sense. Now i will say right now that i'm going to get into spoiler-y stuff because this book is really interesting and i desperately need to talk about the ending with people and that's part of the reason why i made this an individual book review. 

So if you have not read this book yet and you don't want to be spoiled, and i definitely think that if you haven't read it yet and you don't want to read--- or and you do want to read it, definitely like stop watching here or skip ahead. I'll have like chapter markers but yes i'm about to get into super spoiler-y stuff like super spoilery stuff. 

So don't, uh, don't watch anymore. Skip ahead. You know, this is your big warning. So while i was reading this book, i was having like a three and a half ish star experience for me. And one of the things that really actually put me over the edge is the way that everything sort of goes with the sort of quote-unquote twist to the story. 

Like basically like the idea of using natural hair products as a way to control black women's thinking and control the choices that they make is actually really brilliant in my opinion. 

And i also think it's really interesting sort of how they introduce these characters, how they explain the choices that the quote-unquote bad characters are making, and also seeing sort of how everything resolves. 

This is a book that doesn't give you a happy ending, which i found to be a really interesting choice because i feel like a lot of these stories, when i think of things like get out or i think of when no one else is watching, all of those resolve in a relatively happy way, so to speak. But this one doesn't this one shows that like these things are going to continue happening.

It's just that nella got out of the situation and nella is leaving the company. It's not necessarily that she's getting a good ending, either. She's going to leave wagner books and that's kind of it. And so i like this sort of like ambiguous slash not happy ending that this book took and i honestly found that to be really satisfying. 

And a nice change of pace from these from just sort of what usually happens in thriller books and suspense books too. I think the way they talk about hazel in general and the way that they talk about the implementation of these products combined with how they use that to explain some stuff that happened in the past to be just a really really interesting choice and honestly what like put me over the edge. But yeah, overall i gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I honestly really, really enjoyed it. 

I thought it was a really fun like summer read, but it's a summer read that has some more like depth and bite to it than just like a typical quote-unquote beach read. It's fun and engaging and makes you think a little bit. 

And honestly there was like so much stuff in here that i wanted to talk about that i also think it would be a really fun book to read with a book club. 

So yeah, those are my quick thoughts on the other black girl. Let me know down in the comments below if you've read this book what your thoughts were. 

If you are going to talk about spoiler-y things, please like give put a warning in your comment so that way other people know and they can like skip it. And potentially like, you know, put spoiler and then enter down a little bit so that way the read more tag comes up. 

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