Zakiya Dalila Harris’s “The Other Black Girl”

July 9, 2021

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Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by Zakiya Dalila Harris to discuss her sharp, often funny debut novel, The Other Black Girl, which centers large contemporary questions about the politics of race, diversity, inclusivity, and representation through the unique lens of working in the publishing industry. The novel opens from the perspective of Nella Rogers, the only Black girl in the editorial department at a prestigious publishing house. Nella has to navigate the familiar landmines of race in the modern workplace: microaggressions from her white coworkers, diversity initiatives that no one takes seriously, and the daily exhaustion of navigating the elite cultural spaces to which she’s managed to gain access, but which are definitely not built nor maintained for her. Shortly after Nella raises concerns about racist stereotypes in the manuscript of one of the publisher’s most famous white male authors, she starts receiving anonymous notes telling her to leave the publisher if she knows what’s good for her. What was previously claustrophobic and uninviting begins to feel much more sinister. Bouncing between mystery, satire, and an indictment of the modern publishing industry, The Other Black Girl keeps the reader guessing right up to its haunting end. We’re thrilled to have Zakiya here with us to break it all down.

Also, Davarian L. Baldwin, author of In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities, returns to recommend Ralph Ellison’s brilliant, ever-relevant 1952 novel Invisible Man.