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The Other Black Girl
Table of Contents
About The Book
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original” (Emily St. John Mandel, New York Times bestselling author), this instant New York Times bestseller explores 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. Having joined Wagner Books to honor the legacy of Burning Heart, a novel written and edited by two Black women, she had thought that this animosity was a relic of the past. Is Nella ready to take on the fight of a new generation?
“Poignant, daring, and darkly funny, The Other Black Girl will have you stressed and exhilarated in equal measure through the very last twist” (Vulture). The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt manipulated, threatened, or overlooked in the workplace.
Reading Group Guide
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Two young Black women, Nella and Hazel, meet against the starkly white backdrop of New York City book publishing. While working together at Wagner Books, they’ve only just started swapping natural hair-care tips when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to office darling, and leaves Nella in the dust. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. A whip-smart, satirical and dynamic thriller, The Other Black Girl is a 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.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Why do you think the author set this novel in the book publishing industry? How would the story unfold in another setting? How would it be similar or different?
2. Recalling Colin Franklin’s novel, Needles and Pins, have you ever read a book that was problematic? What was the title and what made it problematic? Why do you think it was able to get published? Was Nella right about confronting Colin about the stereotypes in Needles and Pins?
3. At what point in the story did you feel suspicious of Hazel? What made her more likable to people in the office?
4. The code question to enter the Resistance is, if an asteroid crashes into the Earth and destroys all Black folk except one, who do you save: Stacey Dash or Ben Carson? Why do think the author chose Stacey and Ben specifically? Would they be considered OBGs? How would you answer the code question and why?
5. How do you feel about Nella and Owen’s relationship? Does he truly understand the microaggressions Nella experiences at work? Do you think she feels guilt or insecurities about having a boyfriend who is white?
6. Nella appears to be embarrassed by her inability to tie scarves, and about not making Black friends sooner or joining a Black sorority in college. Why does Nella question her Blackness? Do you think she’s too hard on herself?
7. Why do you think the author wanted to highlight how Black women feel competitive toward one another in white corporate America? How do you think people feel when they are the only person of color at work? Why might people of color feel competitive in white work spaces?
8. In the novel, Diana and Kendra Rae posed for a 1980s magazine article titled “A New Era in Publishing?” How has publishing changed since the ’80s? Consider the kinds of books that are published today. Are we currently in a new era of publishing?
9. What is Richard’s role in the novel? Why is he threatened by Black women? How does he benefit from “fixing” Black women?
10. What does this book say about code-switching and selling out? What, if anything, separates the two? What are examples of code-switching?
11. What is the significance and importance of hair to Black women? Why do you think Black women take such pride in their hair?
12. Malaika and Nella have a very close friendship. How is the relationship between Nella and Malaika ultimately similar to the relationship of Kendra Rae and Diana?
13. Did the ending make you more optimistic or fearful? How could the Resistance stop OBGs? What could they have done differently to stop Hazel?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Was there ever a time that you felt othered or different during you education or in your workplace? How did you overcome this? What made you different from others?
2. The Other Black Girl has been compared to many movies: The Devil Wears Prada, The Stepford Wives, and Get Out. What movie would you compare it to? With your book club, have a movie night and watch a film that reminds you of the novel.
3. The Other Black Girl will soon be a Hulu series. Discuss which actors you would cast. Is there anything about the novel that you would change for the series?
Why We Love It
“I can’t remember the last time I was this certain that a book was going to set the world on fire. Urgent, propulsive, brilliant, and biting, The Other Black Girl is a psychological masterpiece, where microaggressions and gaslighting turn a company’s ‘civilized’ atmosphere into a slowly unraveling horror. Zakiya Dalila Harris is a storyteller of the highest order and she will sear Nella Rogers into your consciousness. I hope you are as overcome as I was when turning the pages of this mind-blowing and important book, and that you will join me in celebrating the arrival of this major new literary talent.”
—Lindsay S., VP, Editorial Director, on The Other Black Girl
- Publisher: Atria Books (June 1, 2021)
- Length: 368 pages
- ISBN13: 9781982160159
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Raves and Reviews
“Filled with twists both unsettling and unexpected . . . such a timely read.”
“A thrilling, edgier Devil Wears Prada that explores privilege and racism.”
– Washington Post
“A sly satire and thriller rolled into one.”
“Riveting, fearless, and vividly original. This is an exciting debut.”
– EMILY ST. JOHN MANDEL, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Hotel
“A psychological thriller for the modern-day working girl . . . filled with suspenseful twists and turns.”
“A dazzling, darkly humorous story…the novel overflows with witty dialogue and skillfully drawn characters, its biggest strength lies in its penetrating critique of gatekeeping in the publishing industry and the deleterious effects it can have on Black editors. This insightful, spellbinding book packs a heavy punch.”
– Publishers Weekly (starred)
“Harris’ genre-bending evisceration of workplace privilege is set to become the debut of the summer.”
– Entertainment Weekly
“Harris isn't afraid of taking risks in this book, pushing the plot to thrilling heights. As extraordinary as The Other Black Girl's story becomes, it's rooted in all-too-real social problems.”
– Oprah Daily
“Wholly earned brilliance. Harris makes her entrance as an author with singular style. Whatever she does next might seem quieter, but watch for it: It will be brilliant.”
“Funny and subversive, this debut about the trials of a Black assistant at a mostly white publishing house uses suspense, horror and satire to bring home the toll of workplace racism.”
“A debut novel that is the perfect mix of social commentary and fast-paced thriller. Poignant, daring, and darkly funny, The Other Black Girl will have you stressed and exhilarated in equal measure through the very last twist.”
“Witty, inventive, and smart, The Other Black Girl goes deeper to take on class privilege, race, and gender in a narrative that slyly plays along the edges of convention. Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut is a brilliant combustion of suspense, horror, and social commentary that leaves no assumption unchallenged and no page unturned.”
– WALTER MOSLEY, internationally bestselling author of Devil in a Blue Dress
“A satire of the clueless racial politics at a prestigious literary house with, in its second half, a horror-movie twist."
– Wall Street Journal
“Filled with twists and moments that make you think, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl is the sharp, compulsive thriller you need this June.”
“Harris is excellent at capturing the way a job can become a person's whole identity, and takes readers on a bracing, whip-smart, piercingly funny trip into a supposedly enlightened industry — and world — where racism, classism, and sexism all conspire to destabilize anyone who isn't willing to play the game.”
– Refinery 29
“Initially satirical and then spectacularly creepy [...] This unique thriller [has] echoes of both Jordan Peele and, in the end, George Orwell.”
– Washington Post
“[A] perceptive exploration of racism in publishing, wrapped up in a whip-smart story of young women at war in the workplace.”
– Los Angeles Times
"This twisty thriller will resonate with anyone who has struggled to find her voice as the only Black woman in the room."
“[A] brilliant debut …The novel takes some bold stylistic risks that pay off beautifully, leaving the reader longing for more of Harris's words and unique view on the world.”
“Harris succeeds in capturing office machinations with a deftness and grace that brings it all to life.” —New York Times Book Review
Resources and Downloads
High Resolution Images
- Book Cover Image (jpg): The Other Black Girl eBook 9781982160159
- Author Photo (jpg): Zakiya Dalila Harris Photograph by Nicole Mondestin(0.1 MB)
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