Highlights in the Charts
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
Review by Robyn Hewson
Abi Daré’s debut is an unforgettable portrayal of a young Nigerian girl finding her voice and refusing to give up on her dreams. A New York Times bestseller and Nigeria Prize for Literature nominee, The Girl with the Louding Voice has moved readers and critics worldwide. This inspiring coming-of-age story reminded me of Tsitsi Dangarembga’s classic Nervous Conditions; they both focus on young women determined to overcome poverty and hardship, and to fight for their right to an education.
The novel follows Adunni, a fourteen year-old girl growing up in the village of Ikati, Nigeria. Her mother, who works hard to provide for her family, tells her to pursue an education to avoid an early marriage:
"In this village, if you go to school, no one will be forcing you to marry any man. But if you didn’t go to school, they will marry you to any man once you are reaching fifteen years old. Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk."
When Adunni’s mother dies, she is forced to leave school and marry an older man so her father can claim her bride price. After this betrayal, she has to decide whether to honour her father’s wishes or escape in search of freedom and happiness. Despite the cruel treatment she faces from relatives and employers, Adunni’s bravery and unwavering hope for a brighter future shine through.
The novel is in first person and in Adunni’s pidgin English, an authentic representation of her voice that makes the narration all the more compelling. Although it explores distressing themes like sexual violence and child marriage, The Girl with the Louding Voice is also a heart-warming depiction of a young girl carving her own path in life and refusing to give up in the face of adversity.
The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris
Review by Natalie Joyce
The Other Black Girl is Zakiya Dalila Harris’s debut novel. It follows Nella Rogers, an ambitious Black twenty-six-year-old who lands her first publishing job as an Editorial Assistant at Wagner Books. She aspires to be an editor in the future, but it becomes clear that there is little opportunity for her to ascend the career ladder.
Frustrated by being the only Black employee at the publishing house and by her lack of progression after two years at the all-white company, Nella is thrilled when another Black woman, Hazel, is hired, who she views as a kindred spirit rather than competition.
However, Nella begins to doubt Hazel’s intentions when the newcomer starts winning over bosses, despite sharing the same ideals as her, and undermining Nella at every opportunity. Soon after, threatening notes begin appearing on her desk: “LEAVE WAGNER. NOW.” Nella doesn’t want to believe that Hazel is behind these aggressive messages, but after betraying her trust, Nella has to investigate whether Hazel is attempting to sabotage her career.
The Other Black Girl almost feels like two books in one. The first is a slow-paced story about the publishing industry from the perspective of a person of colour, and about trying to navigate the challenges of being the only Black woman at Wagner Books until Hazel’s arrival. The second is a thriller, becoming more sinister when Nella receives the hostile notes and someone clearly tries to make her quit. As we uncover more, the ominous story develops and keeps us guessing, even though at times it seems a bit far-fetched.
This genre-defying novel might not be a book for everyone, but it gets real about racism in the workplace, specifically in the fiercely competitive world of publishing where Black employees can find themselves disillusioned and burned out due to the systemic oppression they face.
A TV series adaptation of The Other Black Girl is currently in the works at Hulu.