cover image The Other Black Girl

The Other Black Girl

Zakiya Dalila Harris. Atria, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-1-982160-13-5

Harris debuts with a dazzling, darkly humorous story about the publishing industry and the challenges faced by a Black employee. Nella Rogers, an overworked editorial assistant, navigates white privilege and microaggressions as the only Black person in her department at New York City trade publisher Wagner Books. That is until the arrival of chic Hazel-May McCall. Nella withstands being mistaken for Hazel, “the Other Black Girl,” and reviewing a problematic manuscript written by a bestselling white author with horribly one-dimensional depictions of a Black single mom. Many of the company’s higher-ups have the trappings of material success (Ivy League pedigrees, renovated summer homes), and their attempts to cultivate diversity fall flat, notably with the publisher’s “Diversity Town Halls” and its sheepish attempts to deal with racism (“the elephant in the room,” Harris writes, “No one really knew what the elephant was. Or where the elephant was”). When Nella receives an anonymous note reading “Leave Wagner. Now,” her hopes for a career at the company begin to crumble. Meanwhile, Hazel, seemingly undeterred by office politics, is not the ally she appears to be. While 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. Agent: Stephanie Delman, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (June)