Early on in The Different Black Woman, a nimble-witted new horror satire by debut novelist Zakiya Dalila Harris, Nella Rogers feels able to bond together with her new workplace mate.
Nella’s been the one Black woman in her workplace for 2 years now. She’s an editorial assistant on the prestigious writer Wagner Books, struggling to climb the ladder and change into an editor herself. And Wagner, like most publishers, is staffed virtually completely by white individuals.
Nella longs for somebody she will make ironic eye contact with after experiencing one more microaggression from one among her coworkers. When glamorous Hazel wafts into the workplace — all locs and colourful blazers, trying “very Erykah-meets-Issa” — Nella thinks her goals have lastly come true.
So when Hazel says, “C’mon, sis, you will be actual with me,” and asks Nella to inform her about what it’s actually wish to work at Wagner, Nella obliges.
“I’ll simply put it this manner,” she says. “They don’t ‘see’ shade right here at Wagner.”
Hazel takes Nella’s phrases because the warning they’re. However to Nella’s shock, she doesn’t reply by providing up fellow-Black-girl solidarity. As an alternative, like a starlet from All About Eve with an excellent pure haircare hookup, Hazel makes use of Nella’s inside intel to set about undermining her at each flip.
Nella tells her bosses that there are some issues with a token Black character named Shartricia in an upcoming novel; Hazel assures them that the e-book is good and genuine. (Is that what occurred with American Dust?) Nella has cultivated a solidarity-based friendship with the Black individuals working the Wagner reception desk and mailroom, however Hazel plies them with presents and steals their loyalty. Nella’s been wooing a sizzling younger literary agent she needs to start out working with, and as a substitute the agent emails her to ask for Hazel’s contact data.
Hazel someway appears to be extra authentically Black than Nella is, and likewise extra palatable to Nella’s white bosses. She is able to tailoring her id to her viewers with out disgrace or constraint, and whereas she laughingly tells Nella that each one she’s doing is code-switching, Nella is for certain one thing extra sinister is happening.
The opportunity of what that sinister factor is likely to be lurks under the floor of The Different Black Woman for some time, as Harris spends a lot of the novel satirizing the mores of white liberal workplaces. Harris was an editorial assistant at Knopf, and her depiction of Wagner cuts with the specificity of lengthy commentary. “It simply … it sucks how white it’s right here,” says one among Nella’s fellow assistants, and shortly afterward she enthusiastically greets Nella by Hazel’s identify.
However slowly, by way of a collection of apparently unrelated chapters set within the ’80s, the query of what precisely Hazel’s deal is begins to take middle stage. It’s right here that The Different Black Woman begins to amass a barely crazy camp power, a bit alongside the traces of Boots Riley’s Sorry to Trouble You or Marti Noxon’s Dietland. There’s a conspiracy that stretches again a long time, and an underground resistance, and mysterious nameless threats; there’s additionally a showdown at a pure hair care salon, and a major plot level revolves across the difficulty of what sort of hair grease Nella will use. It’s all creepy and unhappy and unsettling, but it surely’s heightened simply sufficient that it’s all just a little bit humorous, too.
Principally, The Different Black Woman is simply enormously enjoyable. This e-book is confronting real points concerning the issues Black girls face as they navigate all-white areas, and about how even liberal establishments like e-book publishing have made themselves all-white — but it surely does so with a joyous verve that may have readers galloping by way of each web page. It’s a real blast of a learn, and it’ll change the best way you consider cocoa butter ceaselessly.