Washington Post Review: “‘The Other Black Girl’ Should Be at the Top of Your Summer Reading List”

Zakiya Dalila Harris
Photo by Nicole Mondestin Photography

THE OTHER BLACK GIRL | Zakiya Dalila Harris | BUY BOOK

Review by Naomi Jackson | The Washington Post | June 9, 2021

The publicity materials for Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel, “The Other Black Girl,” describe the book as a literary mash-up of “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Get Out.” That sets the bar high with the promise of a cultural landmark — a novel that’s timely, hilarious, witty, mildly terrifying, emotionally textured and conversant on the social and political issues that Black women face in the world and the workplace. Is the novel worth the hype? Yes. It should be at the top of your summer reading list.

The story opens in summer 2018. Nella Rogers (see: celebrated Harlem Renaissance author, Nella Larsen) is in the second year of her job as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books. A University of Virginia graduate and the daughter of a college dean, Nella is privileged but still disadvantaged relative to her wealthier White peers. Nella is hungry for a promotion and wonders if her professional ascent is halted by her race, her campaign for a more diverse workplace or something else altogether. Nella relies on two sounding boards — her best friend, Malaika, another 20-something Black girl, and her White boyfriend, Owen. The book earns its title from a new hire who disrupts Nella’s status as Wagner’s proverbial fly in the buttermilk.


Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 by TimeThe Washington PostHarper’s BazaarEntertainment WeeklyMarie ClaireBuzzFeedParadeGoodreadsFortune, and BBC

“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original.” –Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel

“A thrilling, edgier Devil Wears Prada that explores privilege and racism.” —The Washington Post

Urgent, propulsive, and sharp as a knife, The Other Black Girl is an electric debut about the tension that unfurls when two young Black women meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing.

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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