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‘The Other Black Girls’ is a literary mashup of ‘Get Out,’ ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

Black Women in Education

‘The Other Black Girls’ is a literary mashup of ‘Get Out,’ ‘The Devil Wears Prada’

By Naomi Jackson via

“The Other Black Girl” by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria)

Book review

“The Other Black Girl,” by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria, 368 pages, $27)

The publicity materials for Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel, “The Other Black Girl,” describe the book as a literary mashup of “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Get Out.” That sets the bar high with the promise of a cultural landmark – a novel that’s timely, hilarious, witty, mildly terrifying, emotionally textured and conversant on the social and political issues that Black women face in the world and the workplace. Is the novel worth the hype? Yes. It should be at the top of your summer reading list.

The story opens in summer 2018. Nella Rogers (see: celebrated Harlem Renaissance author Nella Larsen) is in the second year of her job as an editorial assistant at Wagner Books. A University of Virginia graduate and the daughter of a college dean, Nella is privileged but still disadvantaged relative to her wealthier white peers.

Nella is hungry for a promotion and wonders if her professional ascent is halted by her race, campaign for a more diverse workplace or something else. Nella relies on two sounding boards – her best friend, Malaika, another 20-something Black girl, and her white boyfriend, Owen. The book earns its title from a new hire who disrupts Nella’s status as Wagner’s fly in the buttermilk.

Nella is immediately enraptured and perplexed by Wagner’s newest editorial assistant, Hazel-May McCall. They bond over college-educated Black girl things – literary tastes, a Zora Neale Hurston mug. But Hazel swiftly eclipses Nella, joining forces with the company’s editor in chief, Richard Wagner, and…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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What Does It Mean To Be “Black Butterfly Beautiful”

The image of the butterfly has come to define the many expressions of the feminine black consciousness and for a good reason. The butterfly is the perfect articulation of the exquisite beauty of nature. Whether tiny or large, brightly colored or more subdued, the butterfly’s allure is undeniable. Each one displays its own unique patterns and hues, and no one species outshines any other.

Similarly, there is no one ideal image of a black woman -- each is gorgeous in her right. All African-Americans share a glorious history of struggle and perseverance that has funneled into the modern black renaissance. And, like the graceful butterfly, the awakened black woman exemplifies the dazzling beauty of that cultural evolution.

Flying High

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