BOOKS: New novel tackles race at work | Books & Literature

Jane Ammeson, Times correspondent

For the past two years, Nella Rogers, the only daughter of two college professors, has worked as an editorial assistant at Wagner’s, a publishing house filled with Ivy League backers who work for many. low wages with the dream of becoming a publisher. one day.

It’s Nella’s dream too, even though she knows she still has a long way to go. The only black person in the pool of editorial assistants since the editor-in-chief disappeared twenty years ago, muttering loudly and scratching her ear. By the way, that’s a major clue in “The Other Black Girl” (Atria 2021), a book that goes way beyond your typical business competition story. Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel is a zinger, showing the rough waters black women have to navigate in the office.

The boost for the book, Harris said, is something similar. She was in the bathroom at work washing her hands when a black woman walked out of one of the booths. Harris’ first thought was: who is she?

“I wasn’t used to seeing other black people on the floor,” Harris said. “I knew who was in the company and how many black and brown people there were on my floor – it was me and a black editor at the Pantheon / Knopf. So I looked at this woman and hoped we would have a moment, but there was nothing. Which was cool, I understand. But coming back to my desk, I thought, why was I so excited? Why was I so hungry? But of course I was hungry. “

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