Shaban Book Club Recap
Bismillahi ar-rahmani ar-rahim...
Assalamu aleikum waramatulahi wabarakatuhu Dear Readers.
Summary: 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.
Thoughts: Unique twist and genre.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris is a suspenseful and thrilling read that starts off like a regular fiction genre.
In the prologue, set in the 80s, an award-winning Black editor and Harvard graduate, a Black unicorn to say the least in the publishing industry, goes into hiding after she writes a raging piece detailing her dislike of her micro-aggressive white work environment. This is her unplanned undoing at Wagner Books, a prominent book publisher.
Then The Other Black Girl switches timelines to 2018 and starts to revolve around twenty-six-year-old Nella Rogers, an editorial assistant at Wagner Books again, who had high hopes of getting a promotion based on her hard work and dedication alone.
The following passage explains her work environment’s atmosphere: “I was the zoo animal on display, and people I’d worked with for nearly two years--People I’d publicly called friends but had also privately called ‘self-important vampires’ because in corporate life, these things weren’t mutually exclusive--had their noses pressed against the walls as they merrily watched me eat my own shit.”(Page 229)
She soon realizes that her efforts are pointless and must decide whether to sell-out her soul to make it to the top or hold on to her blackness and remain unpromoted and/or undermined for the rest of her promising career.
Harris explores Abrahamic themes with her story. This is seen in the way she uses the story of Samson (aka Sam’un) and Delilah to retell a story about the power of hair but set in modern times. Like how the “Delilahs” were turned into spying. I am tempted to say that Watson, a prominent social media activist in the story, is Samson. There is also the use of the name Hazel that I always read as Jezebel every time it appeared on the page.
The Other Black Girl can come off farfetched if one is not familiar with the field of chemistry or the story Samson and Delilah; the delicate one. Having said that, the story also has a realistic feel to it as Harris weaves in a great deal of popular culture commentaries through the fabric of the tale. For instance, she mentions Angela Davis, Black Twitter, the ordeal of the Kardashian Ad that made it to release without a sensitivity feedback stopping it from occurring in the first place.
Humans are what they eat. Humans are also what they consume cosmetically. In this light, harsh chemicals can affect humans in ways that are not healthy and Harris hints at that in her witty piece that reads like a science fiction novel at times but that’s the thing about life; it’s a blend of genres; romance-relationships, daily conspiracy and crime-suspense, news-literary, food and cosmetics-chemistry and science land, etc.
I am curious to know if Zakiya (Clever in Semitic) Harris will write a sequel as the stories of the resistance’s leaders, of Diana & Richard, of Colin with his chartreuse story, Owen; Nella’s boyfriend and the reaction of Malaika--Nella’s best friend, etc. were left off. The reader is forced to draw his or her own conclusions about these characters, and they all point to code-switching; a thing that I find highly disturbing and so hypocritical.
Overall, The Other Black Girl is a good read that blends in writing genres in a way that is not always seen or appreciated in the reading and publishing world. It’s ingenious. Check it out.
Our Usual Book Club Questions Are:
1. What did you like most?
2. What gave you pause?
3. What didn't you like?
4. What are your other thoughts?
5. What question (s) do you have for the author(s)?
6. What questions about the book(s) do you have for the moderator or other members of the discussion(s)?
Thank you for tuning in and reading. Dear Readers & Members, see you in Shaban 1443 AH insha'Allah.
We look forward to hearing from you.
G E T I N T O U C H !
Books, Teas & Coffees
Until next time, subhanaka Allahumma wa-bihamdika ash-hadu anla ilaha illa anta as-taghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka. (O Allah, You are free from every imperfection; praise be to You. I testify that there is no true god except You; I ask Your Pardon and turn to You in repentance.) Aameen.
The Fofky's Book Club