The Other Black Girl left me with so many Questions
The Other Black Girl spans the genres of workplace drama, horror, and retrospective of race in America. The story starts slow, but the well-crafted plot kept me guessing until the end. Maybe even past the end? The themes of race, identity, and power dynamics within the workplace were well-explored and thought-provoking. However, when I found myself digging into the questions of the novel I didn't always find the answer.
The story opens with Nella who is tired and frustrated being the only Black girl working at Wagner Books when she notices a new employee being interviewed. Nella is excited about the prospect of having a Black friend at work when she begins to receive cryptic notes like one left on her desk reading "LEAVE WAGNER".
Nella slowly unravels throughout the first half of the book. The notes make Nella question her place at Wagner and her dedication to her career. Meanwhile, Hazel is befriending all of the white coworkers at Wagner including the editor Nella works for and Wagner himself. This section of the book is slow a retrospective on what is costs Nella to survive in her white workfplace. The workplace drama contrasts significantly with the horror-styled latter half of the book.
Nella's life at Wagner Books - notably named for the famously white supremacist composer - is likely informed from Harris's own time spent working in publishing houses. She explores the themes of mental health, work-life balance, and obviously the intersection of race in the workplace. Harris's commentary on having the one Black woman leading all of the DEI initiatives while her white colleagues slowly fizzle out of energy on the matter is a sad (but not incorrect) mirror of life in corporate America.
As Nella gets closer to Hazel to determine if she can really trust her or not, the reader begins to unravel what is really happening in the dynamics of these two women. Honestly, I have a lot of questions. I love the mechanic of using hair care products, but I'm dying for more of how it works. The back half of the book that starts to delve into the mystery moves so quickly and with so little explanation that overall the novel feels like two genres next to each other instead of one cohesive story.
Scattered throughout the novel are the timeline jumps and mixed point-of-view of other characters. These are only lightly explored and lack the impact they could have had if they were a more prominent part of the story. I'm waiting for more backstory between Kendra and Diana. Without a deeper look at their story, the alternate timelines and points of view are more distracting than they are engaging.
I cannot overlook the depth to which this explores themes of race and identity. Harris has a lot to say about being Black in a predominantly white workplace. The way that Nella is exploring her own identity through her job, relationships and hair care invites the reader to do the same. There is so much here that it's frustrating to see the tip of the iceberg and know this story could have gone deeper.
Overall, "The Other Black Girl" is a fun and suspenseful read. The heavy themes of the book are asking the reader to look deeper, but when they do I'm not sure the answers are there for them to find. Honestly, if there was a sequel I would probably read it. I'm dying to know more about TOBs and how they work and if they find it worthwhile. I want more of the story between Dianna, Kendra, and Wagner. Go with caution, and know you might not find the answers to all your questions.