First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is pretty tired of being the only Black girl at Wagner Books – so of course she’s excited when Hazel-May McCall starts working in the cubicle besides hers. Born and raised in Harlem, Hazel exudes the confidence and charm that Nella has never quite possessed. But they’ve only just started swapping emails and natural hair care regiments when a string of unsettling events cases Nella to become public enemy number one, and Hazel, the office darling. As Nella begins to spiral, obsess, and ultimately uncover the sinister forces at play, she risks losing much more than just her career. Propulsive, darkly funny, and endlessly surprising, The Other Black Girl will resonate with anyone who’s ever felt manipulated or outmaneuvered, threatened or overlooked. As disturbing as it is tender, this is a novel that questions the silence we trade for success, and asks whether that sacrifice can ever truly be worth it.
And we’re finally on the last Friday of August! September is just over the horizon. The Philippines is already gearing up for the holiday season. Yes, Philippine Christmas season officially commences on the first of September, the start of the so-called “ber” months. There is also a noticeable chill in the breeze, that is slowly taking over the sweltering Manila heat. With the end of the month, it is about to get tedious because of month end closing processes. Hey, that’s the life of an accountant. Nevertheless, I am hoping that you are all doing well in this most uncertain of times. I fervently hope and pray that this pandemic ends soon.
But before we can waive goodbye to August, let me do a final First Impression Friday update. My reading journey in August was a mixture of Japanese literature (an extension of my July Japanese literature month) and of new books, i.e. books published this year. Currently, I am reading Zakiya Dalila Harris’ debut novel, The Other Black Girl. It was one of the books that has piqued my interest earlier this year, hence, its inclusion in my 2021 Books I Look Forward To list. The overwhelming and positive feedback on the book following its publication further piqued my interest in the novel. Thankfully, I managed to purchase a copy of the novel earlier this week.
In the prologue, The Other Black Girl opened in 1983, with a woman riding a train. It was as if she was running away from something, a highly publicized event. It made me wonder what it is she was running from. Gripped in tenterhook, it made me curious about who she is. The narrative then jumped forward to 2018, three and a half decades later. In the novel’s present, I found myself in a publication house called the Wagner Books. Among the publication house’s many editorial assistants is Nella Rogers. She is assistant to Vera, one of the most revered book editors in the company. One thing also makes her stand out among the rest: Nella was the only Black woman working for the company.
Nella was cognizant of the glaring disparity. To mend this dichotomy, she tried to engage her co-workers in diversity talks. She also became active in the company’s various activities, earning Vera’s ire, who called it “extra-curricular” activities. It seems that her message is starting to resonate as one day, a new editorial assistant was hired to work for Maisy, another highly strung editor. Hazel-May McCall grew up in Harlem and used to be an editorial assistant for magazines. Hazel-May just became the second “black” employee of the company, something that Nella looked forward to. Immediately, Nella warmed up to Hazel-May as she deemed that she finally found a companion she can share her thoughts and confidences to, at least where work is concerned. And that’s as far as I got.
As Harris lays out the landscaped of the narrative, it started hitting me what she is trying to convey. I am starting to have an inkling on how the narrative is going to be. The clues were already laid out; one just have to connect the dots. Nevertheless, I am still reserving my judgment; it could not be that palpable how Harris is going to steer the story. It couldn’t be that predictable! On another note, I am interested to know how the past echoes to the present. Who was the woman on the train and how is she connected to the two young women in the present?
So far, I am liking how the story is building up. Harris is providing details of how publication houses work. I surmise there will be more discourses on race, especially in the context of the corporate world. I hope she also provides more details on what happens behind the process of putting a novel into the market. I already got to the part where the editors assess an acclaimed novelist’s newest work. It seems that the novel is loaded and I am not sure I can finish it over the weekend. I will, however, try my best to cover as much ground as I can. How about you fellow reader? What book are you reading into the weekend? I hope you get to enjoy it. For now, happy weekend! And for the Philippines, happy long weekend!