Zakiya Dalila Harris on the Commodification of Blackness, in Publishing and Beyond
This Week from the Reading Women Podcast
In this week’s episode, Joce talks with Zakiya Dalila Harris about her novel, The Other Black Girl, which out now from Atria Books.
From the episode:
Zakiya: It’s frustrating on one hand, especially because Nella has been there for so long, and she’s like, I’ve been saying these things. I’ve been playing your game. “Your game,” meaning she’s been really careful and calculated about how she moves throughout Wagner, how she responds to the microaggressions, thinking that she was endearing herself to them and being the—she doesn’t say this—but the good Black person, whatever that means. Being okay and going with the flow is such a big part of her.
So for Hazel to come in and suddenly be this whole other kind of Blackness—I should also say that I was really intentional about the ways that I depicted kinds of Blackness, because I do think that in publishing and beyond publishing, people are constantly labeling different kinds of Black people and sometimes even commodifying certain kinds, depending on what’s happening in the news. And Hazel is this kind of branded, new, bold Blackness that Wagner Books is suddenly very interested in for various reasons.
And so for Nella to see them really falling for Hazel and having these kind of conversations that she’s been trying to push for this entire time, she feels really frustrated. But then on top of that, she feels frustrated that she feels frustrated, because why should it matter who’s causing these changes? They’re happening. That’s great. If they’re having more diversity meetings because Hazel has found a way to make that happen, that should be a good thing overall for the entire movement of having more diversity in publishing. But it also still makes her feel a way because she’s like, wait a minute. What am I, chopped liver?