“The Other Black Girl,” the debut novel by writer Zakiya Dalila Harris, was anticipated to become a major hit before it was published. The book ignited a major bidding war before being acquired from Atria Publishing Group for more than $1 million.
Harris creates a dark, ironic and humorous world, satirizing the whiteness of the publishing industry. The protagonist, Nella Rogers has been working at the high-end publishing company, Wagner Books as an editorial assistant who has to navigate a nearly all-white office environment. The entrance of her glamorous Black new colleague initially brings Nella some comfort, believing the presence of another Black woman would be freeing and helpful. Their friendship seems trustworthy and healthy in the beginning, but their bond slowly unravels as Hazel begins to outshine Nella. Hazel assures her that she’s just code-switching but Hazel’s actions become more and more devious and competitive.
“The Other Black Girl” became an instant bestseller, opening readers to the uncomfortable world of white office culture and the dark truth of Black women’s experiences when trying to live an upwardly mobile life, finding that systemic racism doesn’t just sit at the crux of the white majority in professional settings but also within the space of Black solidarity which can be lacking and even counter-productive from other Black professionals who are brought into the mix.
The author, Harris experienced this ordeal in her life while working Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. She found inspiration from the book while standing in the bathroom of her job as she tried to make a name for herself in the publishing industry.
Harris told the New York Times, “I really wanted to look at how this world affected these two Black women, and how they interacted with one another and what they said to one another, and what they felt comfortable doing when people were watching.”
“The Other Black Girl” is a stunning, fictionalized examination of her personal professional experiences, and speaks volumes about how deeply uncomfortable and painful being a token Black person in the publishing world can be. The book is considered to be a horror story similar to Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You,” but the book pivots towards a women’s experience which consists of the double disparity of racism and sexism.
Harris is working on a television series with actress Rashida Jones for Hulu.
You can purchase “The Other Black Girl” wherever books are being sold.