‘The Other Black Girl’ is an immersive, genre-bending debut

Another black girl
By Zakia Dalila Harris

In an interview with the Build series, Stephanie Beatriz, who plays Rosa Diaz in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, told of her experience auditioning for two different roles on the show and learned that Melissa Fumero Was cast for one of them. He said, “I cried, because I thought, I’m so happy for that but I also know that there’s no way a network is going to cast two Latina. It doesn’t happen, only the rest of us only one.

The idea that has plagued many people of color in various industries across the board, the reality that pits minorities of the same race against each other, is the foundation on which Zakia Dalila Harris’s novel, “The Other Black Girl “is installed. .

Naila Rogers, the protagonist, is an aspiring young woman working as an editorial assistant at Manhattan publishing house Wagner Books. He is inspired by his desire to become editor one day; However, it soon becomes clear that there is little mobility for her to go upstairs to her workplace.

In addition to the frustrations of seeing her dream floating away from her, Naila navigates the nuances of being the only black person in the middle to upper levels of the company. In one example, she is faced with the dilemma that one of the firm’s most attractive writers has to face about her cookie cutter “less than one-dimensional” black character, Shartrisia, who is part of “Tropes.” Feels like a collection … all are unattractive. “

So, when Hazel-May McCall, another black girl is hired, Naila is thrilled; But his excitement soon turns into doubt and disbelief as his work environment becomes more unbearable after the new hire. And her feelings are all the more complicated because she believes she shouldn’t bother them: “She just knew what she felt: to point a finger at the only black girl she worked with.” Was unfair. “

[ This novel was one of our most anticipated titles of June. See the full list. ]

Ethnicity politics is at the heart of this novel. The book explores how the dynamic between blacks and whites potentially distorts black relationships – firm bonds and loyalty, inadvertently nurtured expectations and indirect competition provoked: “Yes, we spent the last year on that” Black Writer ‘, but that author, along with the last six blacks we’ve published here at Wagner, was not a black American, he was from an African country, and while this is certainly an example of diversity Is, it is also not really.

Despite the fact that Harris uses three other approaches in this novel, I cannot help but feel that the story could have benefited from an additional perspective, which did not agree with the overwhelming consensus and immediately Opinion not formulated as incorrect.

But you feel that whatever is happening in this novel, you are half-hearted. “The Other Black Girl” features the horror genre with magical realism in two-thirds of the way. There is certainly a lot of Jordan Peel-esque about the plot. As a writer who held the notion that the genre should be established within the first paragraph, or at the very least, the first page, I found this shift to be a bit distracting at first. But as I adjusted to the new element, my nervousness turned into joy at Harris’ ingenuity and creativity.

[ Read our profile of Harris. ]

Nevertheless, my view that certain fictional elements were introduced – on which I cannot shed more light without completely ruining the fun – stripped away the agency of some of the characters in the novel. There were options that I hoped would delve into it; But this was not the case.

Harris’s writing moves you through the story. She can give paragraphs of back story and internal monologue without making her reader feel overwhelmed or dissatisfied. His writing is an expression of “a spoon reduces Chinese medicine”. Several lines leapt at me because they completely caught any emotion or action. For example: “He loved to move words and paragraphs around in the play of literary Tetris.” How much better can the editing process be described?

Harris succeeds in capturing the office intrigues with a shrewdness and grace that brings it to life. In this experiential novel, stress, complaints, even the unpleasant smell of hard-smelling food and people passing gas are not forgotten.

And speaking of experiential, has literature ever smelled such a strong smell of cocoa butter? While reading the novel it was definitely a unique feeling that was reminiscent of fragrance. If the reader is not familiar with this smell, then it is advisable to buy a tub of cocoa butter hair cream just for its aroma. This can only increase your enjoyment of this book.

I am familiar with the setting, nature, and objects interpreted as characters in a work of fiction, so I will take the liberty of adding hair to this canon. I can tell you the hair texture and style of every single black character in this novel. Attention to hair was not exaggerated, nor careless; This carried the story forward. And as someone who doesn’t usually identify with fictional characters, I was overly excited to learn that the protagonist’s hair was of the same length and texture as mine. There was definitely lingo here – “Ghoom”, “4B,” “Kitchen” – the black woman speaks, that I was able to understand immediately and it gave me a sense of nostalgia and warmth. But I do not believe that this is a book intended to alienate; In fact, many people will find something to add to the narrative.

The seriousness of the subject is being handled in “The Other Black Girl” and the fact that it shared some minor similarities with the horror genre also did not stand in the way of being bright and funny. You may not agree with every opinion or every statement given in this work, but you will change page-by-page in your eagerness to know this unique story. If you are open to this, in this novel you will review what your own prejudices may be, whether your skin is black, white, or orange.

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