For fans of The Devil Wears Prada and The Bold Type comes a smart, modern story about the shifting media landscape and one Middle Eastern–American writer finding her place in it. How far would you go to keep the job a hundred other girls are ready to take?
Noora’s life is a little off track. She’s an aspiring writer and amateur blogger in New York?which is a nice way of saying that she tutors rich Upper East Side kids and is currently crashing on her sister’s couch. But that’s okay. Noora has Leila, who has always been her rock, and now she has another major influence to lean on: Vinyl magazine. The pages of Vinyl practically raised Noora, teaching her everything from how to properly insert a tampon to which political ideology she subscribes to.
So when she lands a highly coveted job as assistant to Loretta James, Vinyl’s iconic editor-in-chief, Noora can’t believe her luck. Her only dream is to write for Vinyl, and now with her foot firmly in the door and the Loretta James as her mentor, Noora is finally on the right path… or so she thinks.
Loretta is an unhinged nightmare, insecure and desperate to remain relevant in an evolving media landscape she doesn’t understand. Noora’s phone buzzes constantly with Loretta’s bizarre demands, particularly with tasks Loretta hopes will undermine the success of Vinyl’s wunderkind digital director Jade Aki. The reality of Noora’s job is nothing like she expected, and a misguided crush on the hot IT guy only threatens to complicate things even more. But as Loretta and the old-school print team enter into a turf war with Jade and the woke-for-the-wrong-reasons digital team, Noora soon finds herself caught in the middle. And with her dream job on the line, she’ll need to either choose a side or form her own.
Clever, incisive, and thoroughly fun, A Hundred Other Girls is an insider’s take on the changing media industry, an ode to sisterhood, and a profound exploration of what it means to chase your dreams.
Release date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Print pages: 304
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
A Hundred Other Girls
There’s a special place in hell reserved for men who manspread on the subway. Take this one guy: midthirties, hair slicked back with so much gel you’d think he was speeding off to audition for the revival of Grease on Broadway. But given his clean-cut gray suit, leather briefcase, and the pace at which he’s whispering into his earpiece, he’s most likely in finance. My guess? Investment banking or trading, based solely on the size of that Rolex hanging off his left wrist. I roll my eyes as he allows his right knee to meander a few inches wider, effectively taking up three whole subway seats. This is what I do when I’m anxious: I people watch. As a native New Yorker, studying different human species in the wild fills me with an odd sense of inner peace. It’s like camping in the desert and staring up at the stars—it reminds me that the world is so much bigger than me and my anxiety.
I suddenly notice an elderly woman without a seat, clinging to one of the ceiling handlebars. Since Goldman Ball-Sachs is too distracted to give up an inch of space on the bench he and his junk have claimed as private territory, I offer her mine. She graciously accepts and I smile at her. “Honey, you should really fix that gap between your teeth,” she tells me, her voice dripping with a thick Staten Island drawl. I stop smiling. New Yorkers are fucking crazy—myself included.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are being held momentarily by the train’s dispatcher. This is a Brooklyn Bridge–bound six local train. The next stop is Wall Street. Stand clear of the closing doors, please.
I check my phone. It’s 1:42 p.m., which means I only have eighteen more minutes to get to South Street Seaport. I was planning on arriving ten minutes early, but that’s clearly no longer in the cards. Why do I even try to be on time when the universe so clearly has a vendetta against me? I flip open my camera and check out my reflection. My long, black, curly hair has gone totally frizzy due to the July heat, so I pat it down using a little bit of saliva, my thumb, and my forefinger. I straighten my gold nameplate necklace, which says Noora,written in Farsi. Noor means light—as in, if I don’t get my ass off the six train in the next eight minutes, I’ll never see the light of day again.
I catch the banker dude looking at me looking at myself out of the corner of my eye. At first, I think maybe he knows me from the internet. My blog, NoorYorkCity, has around twenty-two thousand followers on Instagram. Substantial, considering it’s mostly an internet black hole where I post incessant rants about the current state of our country alongside pictures of my riskier outfits. My sister, Leila, is always telling me I need to step up my “aesthetic” to look like I care less about how many followers I have. She’s a publicist, so she probably knows what she’s talking about. I usually just tell her to fuck off, though.
All of a sudden, I see a bright flash and realize the banker douche was actually just taking a sneaky picture of me fixing myself in the mirror. Great. That’s all I need—to become a viral meme. I’m about to go tell him where he can stick his phone when the train suddenly jolts and resumes moving. I decide to stay put and review my interview talking points instead.
When Leila first told me her coworker had gotten a tip that the assistant to Loretta James, editor in chief of Vinyl magazine, had quit without giving notice, my entire body went numb. I’ve been reading Vinyl ever since I started getting an allowance as a kid. When a new issue came out each month, I’d use my entire ten-dollar allotment on a copy of Vinyl, an Oreo Hershey’s bar, and a Diet Coke from the corner bodega. I even collected them, convinced that one day they’d be worth a fortune. My mother, unfortunately, hadn’t seen it that way; she’d called it hoarding and threw out nearly every issue when I left home for NYU. As my good-luck charm today, I’ve brought along the only copy she’d saved.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer. And yeah, I know. There’s no money in writing today—magazines are dying, newspapers are selling out, and journalists are more interested in becoming celebrity editors than prolific authors. But that’s not me. I still maintain that magazines like Vinyl saved my life. You see, my parents were immigrants, fresh off the boat from Iran, so to speak. And while my mom and dad were able to give me a lot of things—an education, a stable home, and a whole lot of love—advice was not one of their strong suits. They’re from a different culture and a different time and very good at talking at me but not necessarily to me. I was essentially raised by three pillars: Leila, young adult novels, and magazines. I always had my head in between pages, reading back lines until I had them memorized. Vinyl became an older friend. It taught me how to properly insert a tampon, select which political philosophy I subscribed to, and differentiate between an orgasm and an organism. Reading showed me the way forward during a time when I felt stuck between worlds: girlhood and womanhood, Iran and America. I’ve always vowed to one day become a writer myself and devote my life to my readers because, well, I was the reader. Actually, I amthe reader. That’s why I started NoorYorkCity in the first place.
“You have to apply,” Leila said. “You can finally put that English degree of yours to good use. Can you imagine never having to explain what an Oxford comma is to another Brearley brat ever again?” No, actually. I can’t. Ever since graduating in May, I have been tutoring Manhattan private school kids, which actually means writing their essays for them while they bitch to me about their friends with fake IDs who go to Paul’s Baby Grand on Wednesday nights. “She, like, buys a table just so she can sit there and film herself getting bottle service and put it on her Insta story,” Eliza, one of my fifteen-year-old pupils, once complained to me. “It’s honestly lame. Like, we get it. Your dad’s a prince in Saudi Arabia or whatever. OH MY GOD, oops!” Her hand flew over her mouth. “Isn’t that where you’re from?” I explained to her that my family is from Iran, but I was actually born in New York Hospital, several blocks away from where she lives. “Oh, sick,” she said, relieved. “So you get it then.”
Put plainly, the job sucks. But as long as the kids get As, I get paid a ridiculous amount. Plus, it’s left me a lot of time to write freelance pitches. Not that those have been getting me anywhere. No one has ever responded to me, save for that Vice editor who wrote back to ask if I’d ever been published anywhere other than my “online diary.” I cringe, remembering how angry the email had made me. My hands begin to shake, and my chest tightens. Why did I ever think I could apply for a position like this? Vinyl is the magazine responsible for publishing last month’s deep dive into the history of sexual misconduct during New York Fashion Week, for Christ’s sake. Last week, I wrote a blog post comparing my postgrad life to a charcuterie board. Why the fuck did I convince my grossly underqualified ass to apply?
I snap out of my spiral just in time to realize we’re pulling into Fulton Street station. I run out of the train and up the subway steps, pushing passersby out of my way. I’m careful not to let the heels of my tiny Manolo kitten mules get stuck in the crevices of the cobblestone streets. My body is clad in a slinky vintage slip, which was originally white with some sketchy discoloration when I found it at Beacon’s Closet, but after I tie-dyed it in Leila’s bathroom, it was reborn as a certified lewk. The dress feels like me: undiscovered potential. The right person just has to recognize it.
I turn the corner on Varick Street and arrive at the Shifter & Pearce Publishing (SPP) Tower. It’s one of those buildings I’ve probably passed a hundred times over the course of my life but have never really seen before. It’s made of old brick, probably about fifty floors, with large windows and beautiful veranda detailing, the kind that makes every room look like a Renaissance painting. It’s dripping with old New York charm. When I close my eyes, I can hear the clacking of typewriters and the barking of newsroom reporters in the 1920s. I can smell the smoke from their cigarettes wafting out onto the sidewalk. This is what I love about this city. Every neighborhood has its own history and personality, every block has its own language and people, and every building has its own story—one constantly being edited by the pedestrians who dare to enter. And when they exit for the very last time, they leave the ink wet for the next unsuspecting tenant. Now it’s my turn to scribble something in its margins.
I enter the lobby with my shoulders back and head held high, strutting like a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant toward the turnstiles that block off the elevator bank.
An alarm goes off, and a large security guard approaches me. I notice he’s wearing novelty Superman socks underneath his uniform.
“ID badge, please.”
“I…I don’t have one,” I say. He grunts impatiently.
“Come with me.”
I follow him to the security desk. He asks if he can search my purse then hands it to his colleague to run through a black, bulky machine. I feel like I’m in line at JFK. Who knew SPP would require as much security as the White House? He hands back my purse and asks for a copy of my driver’s license. I explain I don’t have one of those either. Hey—I’m a New Yorker, remember? I never learned how to drive. He wants to know who I’m here to see.
“Vinyl magazine, please,” I announce proudly. He nods.
“The fashion magazine.”
“The culture magazine,” I correct him.
He takes my photo and prints a visitor pass for me. I quickly snap a picture of it and send it to Leila, in case this is as far as I get, then thank him for his help. “I like your socks,” I say before returning to the turnstiles, this time passing through with ease. When I turn to wave, he finally cracks a smile.
The elevator bank looks straight out of the Matrix—sterile, glossy, and white. I press thirty-two on a touch screen pad. One of the elevator doors immediately opens, and I get on. I’m joined by an older woman in a fluffy red faux-fur coat and white tennis shoes. I don’t recognize her face, but she has an air of importance to her. At the very last minute, a man rushes in. He’s dressed a bit too casually in jeans and a T-shirt, which reads HOWARD UNIVERSITY. I can’t help but notice how perfectly the sleeves frame his biceps. He sees me noticing and smirks. I blush and turn to stare at the double doors.
The elevator pings open, and Fur Coat Lady gets out. I step forward to check the floor. Somehow, we’ve made it all the way to forty, missing thirty-two entirely.
“What the fuck?” I accidentally say out loud. Howard Man laughs.
“Let me guess,” he says. “You didn’t check what elevator you had to go to when you hit your floor?” I shake my head. “Well, I suggest you get out quickly and try again. These are smart elevators.” I check my phone. I have exactly two minutes. I run out onto the fortieth floor, my cheeks bright red, my forehead beading with sweat.
“What’s your name?” he asks, just as the doors close.
“Noora,” I say to absolutely no one. The hallway is empty and silent. I quickly press the number again, making sure to check my assigned elevator this time. Luckily, one arrives in seconds, and before I have time to stress, I’m here.
There’s a giant neon Vinyl sign hanging on the wall and a millennial-pink velvet couch sitting in the hallway waiting area. Books are arranged by color, and pillows are embroidered with empowering, punchy catchphrases like “dress like a feminist” and needlepoint illustrations of vaginas. Someone with a buzzed head and an entire sleeve of tattoos is waiting for me while wearing overalls, cowboy boots, bright-red lipstick, and a huge smile.
“Noora, right?” I nod. “Welcome! I’m Saffron, and my pronouns are they/them. I’m Vinyl’s Digital Beauty editor, and I oversee everything from makeup, hair, skin, yada yada, to physical and mental health, sleep, wellness, trauma, etc. You’re Loretta’s new assistant, right?”
“Not exactly,” I respond slowly, confused. “I’m here to interview for the position.”
“Right, but like, basically. Didn’t you already phone interview with HR? And take the edit test?” I nod again, feeling unsure of what to say. Saffron says, “See, so you’re in. Loretta wouldn’t waste her time meeting you if you weren’t top of her list. Plus, she needs someone ASAP. I don’t know if you heard, but her last assistant didn’t exactly leave things—how do I put this?—neatly. Usually she’d be the one meeting you out here, but she kind of just left. I volunteered because I actually like meeting new people. I’m low-key from the Midwest. Plus, I needed to take a break from editing this story.” Their eyes widen. “PTSD, you know? Heavy stuff.”
They lead me through the glass doors and into the bullpen. I’m greeted by a sea of cubicles separated by two large offices. At first glance, it looks like any other place of business. I’m hit by a wave of disappointment, followed by a pang of annoyance at said disappointment.
“So, where to begin? This is where all of Editorial sits—Art, Sales, Audience Development, Branded Content, everyone else, they’re all on different floors. You’ll meet them eventually.” I sort of shrug, pretending to know what they’re talking about. “All the offices lining the walls belong to more senior people, like our Digital deputy editor and Print’s managing editor. Oh, also, for some reason, PR gets an office here too. Our head of Communications is Daniel. Wait till you meet him, he’s a riot.” They point at the biggest office, the one closest to us. The glass is frosted, so I can’t see inside. “That’s Loretta’s office, but her last meeting is running late, so I’m just gonna give you a quick tour.”
We walk through a wasteland of deserted desks, all kept in pristine condition. The cubicles are all bare-bones, with no photos or decorations to indicate their owners, just cutouts from magazines, Venus ET Fleur flower arrangements, diptyque candles, and copies of Vinyl. It looks like a fake IKEA template of what a magazine office should look like.
“This is Print’s half of the office, where their Beauty, Fashion, Culture, and News editors sit,” they continue. “Plus, all their associate editors, of course. But they’re hardly ever in. They only come in for meetings or to write their issue pieces. Then they leave to go to events and shit.” They roll their eyes and keep walking.
“It’s all so…clean,” I remark. Saffron snorts.
“If by clean you mean creepy, sure. They’re super formal. Plus, they’re all much older. We’re talking, like, in their thirties, at least. They’ve been here since the dinosaur age. Well, not here here. But at some brand or another at SPP. All these Print people, they just move around from magazine to magazine.” They’re talking so fast that they have to pause for a second to catch their breath. “They’re not exactly think-outside-the-box types. You’ll see when you meet ’em.”
Strange—I always imagined a print magazine’s offices to be a little more Vogue than WeWork, but this feels as impersonal and transient as one of the Universal Studios lots. I’d pictured thin white women in stilettos carrying large stacks of paper and being barked at by bosses draped in giant fur shawls and oversize sunglasses. The reality is a lot lonelier, sterile. It’s as if the staff has been picked off one by one, like in Survivor, until there’s nothing left but a pile of bones, unopened boxes, and sharpened No. 2 pencils.
We continue walking through the floor. I can hear a murmur coming from down the hall. Curious, I pick up the pace and turn the corner. I stop short, shocked. Suddenly, I’m standing in what can only be described as an elevated dorm room. There’s a plush pink carpet lining the floor and velvet beanbags that look straight out of an Ariana Grande music video. Lizzo is quietly playing through someone’s phone speaker. Each chair is packed with a young writer in colorful clothing, some clutching gravity blankets and stress balls, others with giant headphones or AirPods glued to their ears. Bottles of kombucha and CBD oil are sprinkled across desktops. There are twinkling lights hanging from the ceiling, alongside an old HAPPY BIRTHDAY banner somebody forgot to take down. Every single wall is covered in photographs and stickers, like a Pinterest board come to life. It’s a blur of succulents, highlighter, and perhaps most notably, laughter. Yes, on this side of the floor, people are actually talking to one another. Saffron catches up with me and grins.
“Welcome to the Digital team. Here we have Alex, our Politics editor; Crystal, our Fashion editor; Lola, our Lifestyle editor; Seb, our Entertainment editor, and then all these lovely ladies—Staci, Gwen, and Amanda—are on Social. Guys, this is Noora. She’s kind of, sort of, probably Lily’s replacement.”
Upon hearing her name, Lola stops typing mid-JUUL pull and blows a giant puff of smoke in my face. She’s tall and thin, and isn’t wearing a drop of makeup, nor a bra. The blasting July air-conditioning makes her nipples look like two pencil tips. I try to focus on her perfectly symmetrical face instead.
“What’s your sign?” she asks, her dark-brown eyes burning a hole through my forehead. I open my mouth to respond, but she cuts me off.
“Dude, don’t take this the wrong way, but you seriously need to chill. This isn’t The Devil Wears Prada. We aren’t going to give you an Anne Hathaway makeover. And your real star sign, I mean. None of this horoscope bullshit,” she clarifies.
“Virgo rising, Cancer moon.” I clear my throat. I fucking hate this part. “Gemini sun.” I roll my eyes, waiting for what always comes next.
“Ooh, cheeky!” she cheerfully exclaims, giving me a mischievous look and raising her eyebrows. “I’m keeping an eye on you. Who knows what your second personality is like?” I can’t help but laugh.
“You don’t want to find out,” I reply. It’s silent for about fifteen seconds. Shit. I can’t believe I’ve been here five minutes and have already made an enemy—of the Lifestyle editor, no less. I might as well see myself out the do—
“Word,” she says, before taking another drag of her JUUL. I exhale—I passed the test. Everyone goes back to typing suspiciously fast and ignores my presence.
“And then, of course, there’s my desk.” Saffron parks and shows off their collection of anti-fascist stickers, a crystal lamp (made of real crystal), and enough loose beauty products to sink a ship. There are so many packages and shopping bags swallowing their desk, I can barely see their laptop.
“Oh, you think this is bad?” Saffron asks, following my gaze. “Come with me. I’m going to blow your fucking mind.”
We walk down the hall and approach what appears to be a janitorial closet. Saffron pulls a key chain with a giant pink pom-pom attached out of the front pocket of their overalls, and they give me a devious wink. On the count of three, they dramatically throw open the door. Rows and columns of beauty products organized by brand line the walls. It looks like a window display at Barneys. Every section is color coded and pristine, and each display rotates like a carnival ride. Goody bags are thrown all over the floor. There’s a single pink chair sitting in the corner. It looks like a Wes Anderson film. I catch myself holding my breath.
“As you probably guessed, this is the beauty closet,” Saffron says. “This is where all the products on my desk will eventually end up going. If slash when you get hired, you’ll probably be the one to help me organize everything and hold the annual beauty sale, like Jade’s assistant Kelsea does.” They plop down on the floor, and I follow suit by taking a seat in the chair.
“So.” They grab a tube of Glossier Boy Brow and start meticulously applying. “What did ya think of the team?”
“There are so many of them!” I practically squeal, no longer able to mask my excitement. This time, it’s Saffron’s turn to nod.
“Yea, well, we can’t skip out on work! We publish, like, ten stories a day, you know?” There’s a bit of contention in their voice, but I don’t want to pry—it’s too early for that. So instead, I scan the room, in search of a welcome distraction. ...
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...