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For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission. An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownston For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission. An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor. After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game. Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.


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For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission. An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownston For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems. There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission. An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor. After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game. Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

30 review for Black Buck

  1. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    My thoughts about this book were all over the map. It’s called satire, but it’s not the traditional laugh out loud satire. Other than a running joke in which every white person thinks Buck looks like a different famous black man, there’s not much to laugh about. Instead, it’s the tale of what happens when a young black man tries to emulate a successful white man and loses his soul. Darren is happy working at Starbucks, waiting for the right opportunity. He gets that opportunity to work as a sale My thoughts about this book were all over the map. It’s called satire, but it’s not the traditional laugh out loud satire. Other than a running joke in which every white person thinks Buck looks like a different famous black man, there’s not much to laugh about. Instead, it’s the tale of what happens when a young black man tries to emulate a successful white man and loses his soul. Darren is happy working at Starbucks, waiting for the right opportunity. He gets that opportunity to work as a salesman at a startup company. It’s one of those high stress sales jobs, made more so as he’s the only black in the company. Given the nickname Buck, supposedly because he worked at Starbucks, he’s initially sympathetic, but then he drinks the kool aid and incorporates the lessons a little too well. Later, he finds his purpose again, as well as his freedom. The book is written as a pseudo memoir/self help/sales manual, filled with lessons. The style works well. I can’t say I really enjoyed this. I think appreciate is the better word. The last part of the book got too far fetched, although maybe not as much as I’d like to think given Trump and his supporters. For every part of this book that I liked - the depiction of the saleroom and the gonzo mentality, there were other parts that just fell flat. My thanks to netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advance copy of this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    A month ago, I’d never heard of Mateo Askaripour. Today I would buy anything from him. This young debut author apparently polished his patter as director of sales at a tech start-up. Now he’s bounced off that success to produce an irresistible comic novel about the tenacity of racism in corporate America. “Black Buck,” which marks the launch of an effervescent new career, is alternately sly and sweet, a work of cultural criticism that laments and celebrates the power of money. In a tradition stret A month ago, I’d never heard of Mateo Askaripour. Today I would buy anything from him. This young debut author apparently polished his patter as director of sales at a tech start-up. Now he’s bounced off that success to produce an irresistible comic novel about the tenacity of racism in corporate America. “Black Buck,” which marks the launch of an effervescent new career, is alternately sly and sweet, a work of cultural criticism that laments and celebrates the power of money. In a tradition stretching back to Ben Franklin, Askaripour positions this Bildungsroman as a self-help manual, but the book is cast with a distinct hue. Darren, the narrator, tells us, “I am a black man on a mission. No, I am a black salesman on a mission.” Writing from his penthouse overlooking Central Park, Darren wants only to give other Black people the tools they need to fulfill their dreams. The introduction is as American as Dale Carnegie, and the story that follows is periodically interrupted by habits of highly effective people who would make Stephen Covey proud: Reader: Watch closely and take notes. Sales isn’t about talent, it’s about overcoming obstacles, beginning with yourself. Depending on the light, the magical sheen of Askaripour’s prose can make those bits of homespun advice look wholly sincere or wickedly parodic. “Every day is deals day” for Darren, an ambitious Black man always working in two registers — playing along and the long game. But when the story begins, Darren is. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Mateo Askaripour writes a biting satire on the state of the US corporate world and race, it unfortunately carries an all too real a depiction of the contemporary realities that it often makes for a deeply uncomfortable reading experience. The young, bright and black 22 year old Darren is reasonably content with his life as a barista at a busy Manhattan Starbucks, with his girlfriend, Soraya, although his mother thinks he should be aiming higher and do justice to his talents and abilities. Thinki Mateo Askaripour writes a biting satire on the state of the US corporate world and race, it unfortunately carries an all too real a depiction of the contemporary realities that it often makes for a deeply uncomfortable reading experience. The young, bright and black 22 year old Darren is reasonably content with his life as a barista at a busy Manhattan Starbucks, with his girlfriend, Soraya, although his mother thinks he should be aiming higher and do justice to his talents and abilities. Thinking that a customer of his would appreciate another drink more than his usual choice, Darren persuades him to change. The customer, Rhett Daniels, is a CEO of a tech start up, Sunwum, he is relentlessly determined that Darren should come work for him on his sales team, and Darren eventually agrees. Darren joins the all white ambitious sales team, racist, aggressive, with its ruthless dog eat dog culture, undergoing a hell week of training in this hostile environment, and is called Buck, because of his Starbucks association, and exploited as the face of diversity for the company. Buck changes his entire personality to succeed at sales, shaping a new identity, transforming himself into becoming single minded, money driven, to become someone his family and friends no longer recognise. A tragedy, a loss, triggers a crisis within Buck, one which triggers an initiative to help and advise people of colour enter the American sales force. This is a powerful, well written, profound and thought provoking novel, presented in the style of a memoir, a self help sales manual, which works really well. Askaripour's novel is funny, shocking and cringe worthy on occasions, full of twists and turns, and portrays many of the ghastly reasons why America struggles when it comes to employing a diverse work force. To be honest, it was a difficult read for me at times, but its core themes could not be more relevant in the American work place of today. Many thanks to John Murray Press for an ARC.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    If I were a HS English teacher or a college English professor, I would assign this book to my class. I've been ruminating on this for a few days and I think now that I'm finally extracting my analysis and putting it into words I have much more of an appreciation for what this book is meant to do. What the author has accomplished here is pretty remarkable. The more non-POC who read books like this and supplement that with research and conversations from POC, we can work towards really trying to m If I were a HS English teacher or a college English professor, I would assign this book to my class. I've been ruminating on this for a few days and I think now that I'm finally extracting my analysis and putting it into words I have much more of an appreciation for what this book is meant to do. What the author has accomplished here is pretty remarkable. The more non-POC who read books like this and supplement that with research and conversations from POC, we can work towards really trying to make things better. With that said, the skeptical part of me thinks that if you choose to read this then you're already trying (and maybe already willing to really look at how things are), but the more we can get books like this into the mainstream and into our classrooms or in front of young people who don't recognize this as their life - we can maybe, just maybe help open eyes that might have otherwise been closed. While I was reading my rating was all over the map. After finishing it, I initially didn't like it. I told myself to stop being so old and out of touch. As I previously mentioned, it has taken me a few days to analyze this and while this is an extremely provocative book with a lot of extremes, I think there is a lot of value here. If you don't feel like you were just slapped in the face after reading it, then you're either too close to what this is about or you need to try reading it again. You should also feel really uncomfortable at times (at least I hope you do). What I think worked in a lot of ways for me about this was that it was written as a sales manual. I liked how the narrator would talk to the reader and provide context on certain things that were happening to further illustrate a point. (The end was particularly clever.) What I was a little confused by was the rapid transformation of Buck. I felt his descent into vile behavior was a little too rapid and rushed, but I haven't seen much else about this from other reviews so it might have just been me. I predict this book will be on a lot of lists next year and I hope it catapults Mr. Askaripour into the limelight. He has a lot of talent and I look forward to how his next book will challenge me too. Thank you to Netgalley, Henry Holt & Co and Mateo Askaripour for the opportunity to read and provide an honest review. Review Date: 12/29/2020 Publication Date: 01/05/2021

  5. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    Before reading the first word of Black Buck, close your eyes, breath deeply, then recite this definition to yourself: Satire = The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. For if you don’t keep that definition in mind, this novel will be weighed down by its ridiculousness. The main character, Buck (so nicknamed because he worked at Starbucks), actually tells the Before reading the first word of Black Buck, close your eyes, breath deeply, then recite this definition to yourself: Satire = The use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. For if you don’t keep that definition in mind, this novel will be weighed down by its ridiculousness. The main character, Buck (so nicknamed because he worked at Starbucks), actually tells the reader repeatedly that his story is unbelievable. His story being that of a young black man who is plucked from his job making mochaccinos and thrust into the world of high-stakes sales at a New York tech startup. The entire book is written from Buck’s first person perspective, including the Author’s Note at the beginning. There he writes, “I am a black salesman on a mission. And the point of this book - which I am writing from my penthouse overlooking Central Park - is to help other black men and women on a mission to sell their visions all the way to the top.” He’s not lying - the book is even written like a sales manual with specific tips on selling highlighted in bold for his readers. And what if you’re not black, like this particular reader? He writes, “If you’re not black but have this book in your hands, I want you to think of yourself as an honorary black person.” If you can do that, and continue to bear in mind this is SATIRE, Black Buck is a heck of a fun read. Otherwise the plot and characters will seem too over the top and unrealistic. You need to set aside your “why’s” and “how’s” entirely. You’ll also need to excuse a lot of cringe-worthy analogies like, “colder than Jeffrey Dahmer’s freezer,” “drier than a nun’s vagina,” and “sharper than Michael Jackson’s nose.” (Groan.) All things considered, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this debut is the January 2021 Read With Jenna book club selection. Devotees of her recommendations are in for a little something different, and I hope they’ll keep their minds open to the lessons Buck is trying to sell. My thanks to Mateo Askaripour and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to review an advance copy via NetGalley.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    I finished this book days ago, but it took me a while to reason with my feelings about it. It’s unlike anything that I’ve read before and the audiobook was truly an experience, but there were some elements that didn’t work for me as a reader. 3.75 Stars rounded up to 4 Stars for GR One of the most important things to recognize about Black Buck is that it is a satire. If you’re not a fan of satire’s this book may not be up your alley. Personally, I haven’t read many satirical works in my lifetime I finished this book days ago, but it took me a while to reason with my feelings about it. It’s unlike anything that I’ve read before and the audiobook was truly an experience, but there were some elements that didn’t work for me as a reader. 3.75 Stars rounded up to 4 Stars for GR One of the most important things to recognize about Black Buck is that it is a satire. If you’re not a fan of satire’s this book may not be up your alley. Personally, I haven’t read many satirical works in my lifetime so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. The book itself focuses on Darren who is content working as a manager at Starbucks, living in brownstone in Bed-Stuy with his mother, and dating long-time girlfriend Soraya. It’s when he makes the decision to challenge a regular customer, Rhett, on his usually drink choice that his world takes an interesting turn. Darren then becomes “Buck” as he becomes employed and goes through this rough initiation process for Rhett’s company Sumwon. Unclear of the intentions of the company, it is surprising to watch Darren fully embrace his new persona and lose the closest things and people to him. I’m going to be honest, the macro and micro-aggressions in this book are enough to make any Black person’s blood boil. And while they may seem exaggerated, there are so many Black individuals in corporate America that continuously deal with the same conflicts as Darren (I can’t bring myself to call him Buck). The intrigue in literally watching him sell his soul for the company had me on edge. In some ways it feels like psychological warfare. How could a Black man who knows that he’s dealing with passive-aggressive behavior, abuse, and racists managers and coworkers continue to go so hard for this company? But then I have to ask myself: in reality how many Black people have had to essentially sell themselves short and have lost family and friends just to make even close to the financial gains that their White counterparts make with ease? This is especially applicable in corporate America where “the rats race” is the name of the game. You do what you have to do to survive and while it’s ugly to watch, it’s reality. From the use of Darren to promote the company’s “efforts” on diversity and inclusion to saying that he reminds people of “insert any name of any famous Black man,” Askaripour does not shy away from making readers cringe (although I suspect Black readers will be floating between laughter and anger at behaviors that are reminiscent of what they see in their daily lives). Another interesting aspect of this book is that it is literally written as a cross between a sales manual and a memoir. It’s an instruction guide and really navigates the way in which Darren will conduct his life throughout the book. From joining the company to realizing that BIPOC people must create their own way. And when they do, expect White corporate America to be filled with rage. Now as much as I enjoyed those specific elements of the book, I must admit that the second half of the book was a drag. Askaripour had a lot going in the first half, but the second half became too muddled with too many different elements. The book itself got away from him and he was attempting to do too much at once. Part of me understands the direction he was aiming for: some White people are bothered by the success of Black people, some White people won’t even be satisfied once Black people attempt to create their own spaces, “each one teach one” – Black people helping other Black people should always be our intention; however, it was too long and became just a tad bit on the unrealistic side. It was going in so many different directions that I, as a reader, began to question my interpretation of the novel. I found myself wishing that it would come to an end. And when I reached the very end, I was pissed. I was frustrated because it came across as no matter what Black people do they can’t win against a system that was designed to fail them from the beginning. It didn’t seem to fit the construct or the primary intention of the work as a whole. I’m not sure if it was intended to be a redemption arc (part of it felt that way); however, I didn’t buy into the way I should have because my attention was taken into so many different directions. Had this section of the text been more concise, I would have felt justified in giving it 4.5 stars or higher. Overall, I think that this was a solid read with fantastic storytelling. The message in this book is going to make some readers feel uncomfortable as it should. I haven’t had a book challenge me like this in a while. Part of me still doesn’t know what to think and part of me still feels like I need to read it again before the year is over with to make sure this is the rating I want to stick with. Interestingly enough, I’m anticipating what else Askaripour will offer the literary world.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Larry H

    4.5 stars, rounded up. Wow, what a book. Black Buck , Mateo Askaripour's debut novel, is powerful, satirical, poignant, and so relevant. Darren Vender isn’t unhappy with his life. He lives with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone, works at a Starbucks in the lobby of a NYC office building, and loves spending time with his longtime girlfriend, Soraya. Maybe it’s not what one would expect from the 22-year-old former valedictorian of Bronx Science High School, but he’s fine with it, even if his mo 4.5 stars, rounded up. Wow, what a book. Black Buck , Mateo Askaripour's debut novel, is powerful, satirical, poignant, and so relevant. Darren Vender isn’t unhappy with his life. He lives with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone, works at a Starbucks in the lobby of a NYC office building, and loves spending time with his longtime girlfriend, Soraya. Maybe it’s not what one would expect from the 22-year-old former valedictorian of Bronx Science High School, but he’s fine with it, even if his mother wants more for him. One day, feeling bored at work, he challenges a customer to step outside their comfort zone and order something different. This selling job wows the man, who happens to be the CEO of a tech startup in the building above the Starbucks, and he convinces Darren to come to work for him at his up-and-coming company, Sumwun. What Darren finds at Sumwun is an almost cult-like environment, driven by pressure to close deals and make money. He’s the only Black person in the company and he definitely feels as if he’s treated differently, especially by the company’s ruthless sales manager. They call him “Buck,” because he worked at Starbucks, and that may be the least objectionable thing that happens. After enduring an awful “hell week” of training, he decides to throw himself into this job fully, even if he’s not sure of the person he’s becoming, and he’s still experiencing significant racism from his coworkers, although no one wants to acknowledge it. When crises occur both professionally and personally, he has to decide what road to take—and what kind of a man he wants to be. This book really packs a punch. It’s sly and satirical at times, while at others it can be shocking and provocative. Not everything that happens is believable—which was the one thing I struggled with a tiny bit—but this is built on an all-too-realistic core of the racism and mistreatment and discrimination faced by minorities in the workplace. It also deals with the divide between the person you are becoming and the person those in your life want you to be. I thought Black Buck was so well-written and I couldn’t put it down. There were even some twists I wasn’t predicting. This is definitely going to be a book I’ll be thinking about for a long while, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for Askaripour. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Goodreads provided me with a complimentary copy of the book. Thanks for making it available!! Check out my list of the best books I read in 2020 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2021/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2020.html. Check out my list of the best books of the last decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html. See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com. Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brandice

    Darren is content working as the shift supervisor at Starbucks located in a corporate NYC office building. He’s worked there for 4 years, lives at home with his mom, and has a girlfriend. One day Darren persuades a customer to change his typical drink order and the customer, Rhett, is impressed. He invites Darren to come work at Sumwun, his startup company located upstairs. Eventually Darren agrees, beginning his new career. Hell Week is rough for Darren — His mock calls are highly criticized an Darren is content working as the shift supervisor at Starbucks located in a corporate NYC office building. He’s worked there for 4 years, lives at home with his mom, and has a girlfriend. One day Darren persuades a customer to change his typical drink order and the customer, Rhett, is impressed. He invites Darren to come work at Sumwun, his startup company located upstairs. Eventually Darren agrees, beginning his new career. Hell Week is rough for Darren — His mock calls are highly criticized and the stark white culture and blatant racism at Sumwun are apparent at every turn. His coworkers begin to call him “Buck” because of his former job and though things start out rocky, he does hit his stride in sales. Buck let’s this new confidence go to his head and affect his life outside of work. After suffering a major loss and recognizing his success, Buck decides to create a hands-on training program to help Black people succeed in the world of sales. This anonymous network soars in popularity, first in the NYC startup community, then beyond, and Buck’s core group faces challenges as they look to disrupt this space. I knew before starting Black Buck this book was labeled as satire, a style I (more often than not) have difficulty connecting with. I thought the story started out interesting. It lost some momentum and some of my interest toward the middle — Some major aspects including Buck’s loss were hastily brushed over yet he would get emotional about the bro culture at Sumwun when he was in a perpetually hostile environment — I know this is a fictional story and disappointingly, there are work cultures like this. I wish the story would have addressed it directly. While this book won’t make my favorites list, I would read more by Mateo Askaripour.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica | JustReadingJess

    I really enjoyed Black Buck. Buck is a great character that works hard to become successful. He also mentors and starts a group to help young blacks get the skills necessary to get better jobs. I enjoyed how hard Buck worked and found it interesting how he changed as he became more successful. This is an interesting portrayal of how people change when they earn more money and success isn’t always a good thing. Black Buck discusses important race issues. Buck was never accepted by some of his cow I really enjoyed Black Buck. Buck is a great character that works hard to become successful. He also mentors and starts a group to help young blacks get the skills necessary to get better jobs. I enjoyed how hard Buck worked and found it interesting how he changed as he became more successful. This is an interesting portrayal of how people change when they earn more money and success isn’t always a good thing. Black Buck discusses important race issues. Buck was never accepted by some of his coworkers and used as the face of diversity when it was helpful to his company. Black Buck is a great story which does a great job of portraying race issues. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Zeno Robinson and thought he did an excellent job. Zeno was the perfect voice for Buck. Some of the language was difficult to hear in audio but how much I enjoyed the rest of the narration made up for that. Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Blackstone Publishing, Libro.fm and NetGalley for Black Buck. Full Review: https://justreadingjess.wordpress.com...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    So... lots of people are raving about this book and it probably does deserve all much of the hype it's getting. It's a clever take on racism, especially in the workplace.  Buck is a young Black man working at Starbucks. He's content with the way life is and not very driven to do more. Then this white guy named Rhett convinces him to interview for a job at a startup called Sumwun.  Buck does and is the first Black person to work for Sumwun. Just about every white person there, upon meeting Buck, te So... lots of people are raving about this book and it probably does deserve all much of the hype it's getting. It's a clever take on racism, especially in the workplace.  Buck is a young Black man working at Starbucks. He's content with the way life is and not very driven to do more. Then this white guy named Rhett convinces him to interview for a job at a startup called Sumwun.  Buck does and is the first Black person to work for Sumwun. Just about every white person there, upon meeting Buck, tells him how much he looks like a famous Black person... a different one each time (of course). They want him to perform for them like he's in some present day minstrel show. Some of them talk in a stereotypical way to him. Really, they're a bunch of assholes. I cringed even as I chuckled and it drove me crazy how Buck felt like he couldn't call them out and had to keep his justified anger inside. However, I also understand that he was in a position, as most Black people are, where he couldn't call out the racism without being punished.  Indeed, when Buck does speak up, he's accused of being a "reverse racist" (hint to white people: there's no such thing).  I love the way the author teaches about racism and microagressions and stupid shit white people do and say. My problem with this novel is all the dialogue. I cannot stand a lot of dialogue. Usually when there's this much talking, I DNF. However, I was drawn in by Mr. Askaripour's satirical style and kept reading.  I ended up skimming much of the dialogue; at times I felt like I was reading a play. However, the parts written in narrative form captured me.  Those who don't mind dialogue will probably enjoy this more than I did. It was entertaining and I appreciate learning more about the ways in which racism manifests itself. Buck was a likable character (even though he let success turn him into an asshat for a while).  All in all, a partially enjoyable read. Witty and clever and at times hilarious, it's a brilliant way to teach about racism. 

  11. 4 out of 5

    Reggie

    #10Books10Decades Entry #1 Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour Satire is defined as the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Mateo Askaripour, the author of Black Buck, has been a bit reluctant to call his novel satire. He has been consistent in telling anyone who asks that his novel was written in earnest. Sure there are moments that can be considered satirical #10Books10Decades Entry #1 Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour Satire is defined as the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Mateo Askaripour, the author of Black Buck, has been a bit reluctant to call his novel satire. He has been consistent in telling anyone who asks that his novel was written in earnest. Sure there are moments that can be considered satirical & even absurd, but absurdity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. He didn't want to hide behind the shield of satire. No protection necessary. A dope position, but one still worthy of challenge, because when capitalism & racism intersect at a startup in New York—Where the protagonist is the only Black person in the ENTIRE company—you are bound to run into a reality worthy of ridicule. A reality that exposes vices & stupidity in the context of the contemporary issues of capitalism & whiteness. Thus, the reality Darren Vender navigates in Black Buck is full of stupidity & vices that Askaripour used humor and irony to ridicule. It just so happens that the fourth tool in the definition, exaggeration, didn't need to be wielded by Askaripour. Capitalism & those who place maximum value on whiteness exaggerate themselves. 💰💰💰💰💰💰💰 Darren Vender, the aforementioned protagonist of Black Buck, is a 22 year old supervisor at Starbucks who has his life changed after he reverse closes Rhett Daniels, CEO of Sumwun, during a shift. Rhett offers him a job, he eventually accepts & his life never finds the "what" to turn down for afterward. Readers understand quickly why Darren would rise to the top in the world of sales. Through him, Askaripour created a voice that is funny, original & fully human due to his contradictory nature of honest misleading. Black Buck is novel of the workplace being worshipped. Responsibility & ambition. Obligations & Family. War & Karma. Reparations & a potential revolution. A revolution that is being sold to you, over the phone, as a surreptitious way of getting your piece of the pie from the burning house. Will you answer the call? --------------------------------------------- Thank you so much to Mateo Askaripour for giving me 3 hours of his time in this wonderful IG Live. A moment that will be hard to top in 2021. The link is below! https://www.instagram.com/p/CLf9ZJDFMG6/ This is my 2020s entry for the #10Books10Decades Challenge! I hope you're able to participate. Here is a link to the Challenge for your consideration. https://www.instagram.com/p/CJnNxP5gRME/ It was important for me to include Black Buck in the #10Books10Decades Challenge because Askaripour wrote this great piece called Toward an Expanded Canon of Black Literature for LitHub in 2019. It's nice to know there is an author who is just as motivated by the backlist, and expanding our canon, as I am. Please take a read! https://lithub.com/toward-an-expanded...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    So, “Black Buck” is billed as a satirical novel about racism, and I agree, there’s much satire in this amazing novel. While reading it, and after reading it, I took pause. Author Mateo Askaripour packs so much into his novel, and the racism…. oh my…it’s horrifying yet he writes it in such a clever way, many times cringe-worthy, that I had to admit to myself that yes, this crap happens and most likely is STILL happening! With satire and humor, Askaripour creates a message that is profound and for So, “Black Buck” is billed as a satirical novel about racism, and I agree, there’s much satire in this amazing novel. While reading it, and after reading it, I took pause. Author Mateo Askaripour packs so much into his novel, and the racism…. oh my…it’s horrifying yet he writes it in such a clever way, many times cringe-worthy, that I had to admit to myself that yes, this crap happens and most likely is STILL happening! With satire and humor, Askaripour creates a message that is profound and for me, eye-opening (without being dogmatic). But it’s not just a satirical story. It’s a sales manual…yep, he offers little tidbits along the way on how to be a successful salesperson. For example: “Every great salesperson has to go through tough times in order to find out what they’re made of. The best thing to do is to try to come out as unscathed as possible but to never forget the experience. Pain is a powerful teacher.” And “Contrary to popular belief, fairness has no place in sales. It’s not a meritocracy. Every salesperson comes into the game with a different set of advantages and disadvantages, but it’s knowing how to double-down on what makes you special that will help you get ahead.” Now, these gems are sprinkled throughout the novel; they do not serve as the main piece. However, these gems add depth to his story. And Askaripour knows what he’s talking about because he went to NYU with the intention of getting a career in startup sales and eventually owning his own company. He did become director of sales at his company, similar to the narrator. Where does the title come from? I mean, it’s sounds racist to me. Well, the protagonist, an earnest and kind Darren, is a manager at a NYC Starbucks. He graduated valedictorian in his high school, lives with his mom in a brownstone in Brooklyn, has a long time girlfriend is and is regular kind guy. After an odd encounter with an entrepreneur, Darren is hired to work in sales for a start-up. He’s the lone black employee and the director of sales decides to name him Black Buck because he came from Starbucks. Yikes. And often, upon meeting a colleague, he’s asked, “has anyone ever told you that you look like (insert known black man)? He’s been told he looks like Malcom X; Sidney Portier, Dave Chappelle, and the list goes on. Askaripour has stated that most of his parody is for Black people, as inside jokes. As a white woman, I blanched because I could imagine it as reality. I found this story to be original and creative. I loved the satirical elements. I cringed for the narrator and rooted for him. I hope Askaripour pens more work.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    This was an interesting book, pretty different from a lot of other things I’ve read. I normally don’t think much of the comp titles that marketing departments like to toss out there to help sell books, but the two from the synopsis, Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street were pitch-perfect to me! I’ve seen some complaints about how this book is over the top and to those readers I say......that’s kind of the point. This is a satirical novel. It’s also about a topic that’s likely to be unc This was an interesting book, pretty different from a lot of other things I’ve read. I normally don’t think much of the comp titles that marketing departments like to toss out there to help sell books, but the two from the synopsis, Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street were pitch-perfect to me! I’ve seen some complaints about how this book is over the top and to those readers I say......that’s kind of the point. This is a satirical novel. It’s also about a topic that’s likely to be uncomfortable for the average white person to explore. Black Buck is not supposed to be a ‘realistic’ depiction, true to life in every single way, but I think that people who operate outside the world Mateo Askaripour is discussing would be surprised to learn how much is pulled from real life examples. As for the story, it’s a little all over the place for me. I felt like I read multiple books back-to-back as opposed to one cohesive narrative. Black Buck is broken down into five parts, and where a couple feel like natural breaks in the story, others feel like a complete departure. I don’t want to put spoilers in this review, but there are some pivotal moments in the main character’s life that really change the dynamic of the story Askaripour is trying to tell, and not always for the better. Sometimes I think he struggled with exactly what this book was trying to be, and instead of making some difficult cuts he decided to just include everything. I also didn’t love the ending. Not because it was bleak or I didn’t appreciate the point the author was trying to make, but because it didn’t feel as well thought out as the rest of the book. It features a character introduced at the eleventh hour as a mustache-twirling villain instead of letting the natural consequences of Buck’s actions lead him to that conclusion. I just think there was a way to accomplish the same things without cheapening the effect. As a whole, though, I did like the book. The narrator of the audio version, Zeno Robinson, really brought the story to life. I’d recommend the audiobook to anyone who might be interested! And I’d recommend the book itself to anyone who’s interested in reading a searing debut about the intersection between the business world and race in America. *Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Theresa Alan

    “An opportunity means change. And opportunity means actions. But most of all, an opportunity means the chance of failure. And it’s the potential for failure, more than failure itself, that stops so many people from beginning anything.” I started out really enjoying this book because I liked the main character, Darren, who gets the nickname Buck at a start-up company where he is the only black person. But then Buck becomes a person I disliked immensely, one of those sleazy salespeople that is a st “An opportunity means change. And opportunity means actions. But most of all, an opportunity means the chance of failure. And it’s the potential for failure, more than failure itself, that stops so many people from beginning anything.” I started out really enjoying this book because I liked the main character, Darren, who gets the nickname Buck at a start-up company where he is the only black person. But then Buck becomes a person I disliked immensely, one of those sleazy salespeople that is a stereotype. Thus, a large portion of this book was hard to read because he treated people so terribly. I also didn’t love the ending. While there is definitely humor in this novel, it’s not an easy read. Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book, which RELEASES JANUARY 5TH, 2021.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] Sold! It is a thrill to read a novel that leads me into new territory. Biting, absurd, over-the-top, right-on-target, Black Buck repeatedly surprised me. It also angered me, dismayed me and delighted me. My feelings about Buck, a young black man trying to succeed in a racist company, frequently vacillated as he continually transformed himself. I recommend the excellent audiobook, read by Zeno Robinson.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook... read by Zeno Robinson (excellent voice personality) As for this book... itself... my feelings are mixed. My funny bone has limitations. Satire mixed with corporate America, racism, climbing the mountain, white supremacy, a mother, a girlfriend, friends, a sad loss, and the *humor* fizzled out on me. The fire just went out.... — with an ending that left me feeling very bleak. It started out with a fun refreshing bang....( especially loved the gifted audiobook reader)... but then I took a Audiobook... read by Zeno Robinson (excellent voice personality) As for this book... itself... my feelings are mixed. My funny bone has limitations. Satire mixed with corporate America, racism, climbing the mountain, white supremacy, a mother, a girlfriend, friends, a sad loss, and the *humor* fizzled out on me. The fire just went out.... — with an ending that left me feeling very bleak. It started out with a fun refreshing bang....( especially loved the gifted audiobook reader)... but then I took a nose dive into the lagging hole. My interest was dwindling... But..... THEN..... a surprise ending left me sad.... and honestly I felt a little manipulated. All that said...I do wish the author joy and success with this book... which it looks like he is getting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    Very torn on this satire. While it has the bravado of a Vonnegut and the keen eye for race of THE SELLOUT, the actual plot and prose are very broad. This isn't the same kind of satire we've seen from Paul Beatty or Maurice Carlos Ruffin, it's quite different in tone even if there are definitely similarities in topic. The concept and the ideas are the strongest pieces here. I love the fictional-memoir-as-sales-manual gimmick and it's one of the best elements of the book. The constantly twisting tu Very torn on this satire. While it has the bravado of a Vonnegut and the keen eye for race of THE SELLOUT, the actual plot and prose are very broad. This isn't the same kind of satire we've seen from Paul Beatty or Maurice Carlos Ruffin, it's quite different in tone even if there are definitely similarities in topic. The concept and the ideas are the strongest pieces here. I love the fictional-memoir-as-sales-manual gimmick and it's one of the best elements of the book. The constantly twisting turning plot only gets faster as the book zips along. And just when you think you know what it is, it goes in a totally different direction. What threw me is how much this book feels like melodrama rather than satire. Everything is dialed up to the extreme. There is little room for nuance or character building, the dialogue is so basic it often feels like a bad movie. (There is also that thing I keep running into in otherwise interesting books by men where the nice girlfriend is constantly described by how hot and sexy she is and it fills me with rage every time, someone please make them stop.) The tone can work very well in the business and sales scenes, but outside of those settings not so much. I can't tell if this is a purposeful attempt for an over-the-top, a kind of hyper-realism, but if it is it didn't really work for me. There are ideas and plot points in this book that are so good and funny but that don't get fully realized. And for a book that seems to want to say something about race and class, there's not a lot of attention given to the ethics of the selling that becomes so important to everyone. It's not just entering a heavily white (and heavily male) field, it's also entering a field known for predatory tactics and fuzzy ethics. Sometimes it looks like we might go there, but then we never fully do and it dulls the overall message for me. But even with my reservations I kept wondering where Askaripour was going to take me and I was impressed with how big a swing this is and how at its brashest it's often at its best.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Black Buck Ambitious, Promising, Satire, Dark Humor First off, if you want to read this book or still deciding, please have an open mind, this is going to be a wild ride, and if you are not familiar with satire , please do have a little research about it, it's going to affect your reading experience. Darren (Buck) is an unambitious 22 year old valedictorian who works at Starbucks, and he is pretty fine with it, but his mother however really push him to go out there and show them what he's go Black Buck Ambitious, Promising, Satire, Dark Humor First off, if you want to read this book or still deciding, please have an open mind, this is going to be a wild ride, and if you are not familiar with satire , please do have a little research about it, it's going to affect your reading experience. Darren (Buck) is an unambitious 22 year old valedictorian who works at Starbucks, and he is pretty fine with it, but his mother however really push him to go out there and show them what he's got. He encountered a white man Rhett Daniels who offered him a job on a company Sumwun, Darren accepted the offer. He didnt like it because he is the only black man in the company, but he accepted it anyway for his own mother, to make his mother proud.. but was it all worth it, could this be the way to Darren's success or will it drags him down and make him forgot where he came from and who he really is. Is he ready for the big change? Black Buck is a story about racism, racism in a corporate America, White Privileges, Racial Injustice, Freedom, Decisions, And of course The American Dream. Black Buck starts really good, really promising but it kind of went off the rails. I loved how it starts, the characters are really likable but as I continue reading, i find it so different, so ridiculous, especially near the end. Sometimes other parts got disjointed from the main topic of the book. I find it really hard to keep up. The good thing is it didn't fail to convey clearly and properly its purpose and its themes and lessons and everything that the author wants the reader to know. This book is a satire, which a genre that I'm not familiar of. is this supposed to be funny-sarcastic or something? . I read this really seriously. The denouement is fine, satisfying, the transformation of Darren to Buck as a human being, as a salesman, as a man, is really good. But it's expeditiously written. But acceptable. I didn't like it that much. It's a good book, but it's not the book I expected but still it's a good read. Thank you Mateo Askaripour, The Publisher, and Netgalley for a copy to review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kelli

    This book started out really strong for me but fell flat. I didn’t like any of the characters, especially Buck/Darren. The cover was beautiful! This book just was not for me. It reminded me of the movie Boiler Room with the sales culture mixed with a lot of racism and micro aggressions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

    This wasn’t really for me. But 2 stars seems a bit low. I found most of it sort of cliche and cheesy. A lot happened at fast rate a lot of which was also pretty unrealistic and unbelievable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lily Herman

    Excuse me for a sec, I need to catch my breath, because this novel took me on a JOURNEY. Mateo Askaripour's debut Black Buck is a wildly batshit absurdist satire on startup culture, racism in America, media fuckery, New York City, and so much more. Buck himself was a fascinating character—and one whom you never quite get a grip on but feel okay about in the process. In a weird way, this novel sort of reminded me of C. D. Payne's Youth in Revolt in terms of how ridiculous the stakes got after a cer Excuse me for a sec, I need to catch my breath, because this novel took me on a JOURNEY. Mateo Askaripour's debut Black Buck is a wildly batshit absurdist satire on startup culture, racism in America, media fuckery, New York City, and so much more. Buck himself was a fascinating character—and one whom you never quite get a grip on but feel okay about in the process. In a weird way, this novel sort of reminded me of C. D. Payne's Youth in Revolt in terms of how ridiculous the stakes got after a certain point. (And I don't mean that in a bad way!) Still, this is one of the most original books I've read all year, and it'll definitely make you feel all sorts of things. Content warning: Overt racism and white supremacy, bullying, harassment, violence, murder

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Amber

    (SPOILER WARNING!) I don't want what Black Buck is selling. By page 9, I'd had enough of Askaripour's excessive use of metaphors, similes and shallow, unnatural dialogue between his characters. His repetitive jokes and sarcasm were laid on thick and never funny. Never. The word "fuck" appeared so many times in the first quarter of the book that it lost all impact. Read: A very obvious debut. Black Buck was not satirical, but sloppy. Let's start with the main character, Darren, the titular Black Buc (SPOILER WARNING!) I don't want what Black Buck is selling. By page 9, I'd had enough of Askaripour's excessive use of metaphors, similes and shallow, unnatural dialogue between his characters. His repetitive jokes and sarcasm were laid on thick and never funny. Never. The word "fuck" appeared so many times in the first quarter of the book that it lost all impact. Read: A very obvious debut. Black Buck was not satirical, but sloppy. Let's start with the main character, Darren, the titular Black Buck. The nickname Buck refers to his job at Starbucks, meant to degrade him, but it's a name he comes to own and associate with his success. The first half of Black Buck is an ego trip where any and everyone around Darren, including random strangers, tell him how amazing he is. On the one hand, Darren humbly questions his capabilities whenever someone tells him he deserves more or better. On the other, Darren is sometimes angry to the point of near violence when his skills are questioned. There are several instances throughout the story where Darren's thoughts and actions seem to be at odds; he comes across as disingenuous and untrustworthy, which I don't think was Askaripour's intention. I never quite figured out why people believe in Darren anyway. Sure, he convinced Rhett, CEO of Sumwun, to switch one type of cold brew out for another, but that seems to be the extent of his talents in sales. Darren more or less lucks his way into situations that advance his career without really doing anything. He's truly mediocre. As for the other characters, all are rooted in some kind of trope: the ailing single parent who wants their child to leave the nest in search of something more; the old men who don't realize no one else is laughing at their jokes; the jealous best friend from the hood who turns to a life of crime to make ends meet; the hotshot greedy exec with a one-track mind. And then there's Brian, a secondary character with Tourette's, specifically coprolalia where obscene language is unavoidable, who is used for comic relief. Not only does he shout all the names for genitalia at the top of his lungs, he is stereotypically nerdy, socially awkward, and acne-scarred. A severely overused joke in Black Buck in which Black people are compared to the celebrities white people think they resemble likens his face to Seal. Brian is a representation of the elementary school-level humor Black Buck is full of and a shining example of why Mateo Askaripour's debut novel failed: it is so over the top that it is ineffective in achieving everything it seeks out to be. “I wrote this book so that anyone who reads it, especially Black and brown people, would be able to take away a few gems on how to advance their own lives and the lives of those who they love,” said Askaripour in an interview with Langston Collin Wilkins this month. Indeed "each one, teach one" becomes a major theme in Black Buck, but what does Darren, or this book, really teach anybody? After the 200-pages-too-many whirlwind of a story, I still can't say. But just about every attempt made to address racism, microaggressions and cultural appropriation saw me cringing. The message Askaripour wanted to portray was overshadowed by poor writing and plot execution, as well as his heavy-handed comedic touches. For the first several chapters, the storytelling follows a painfully repetitive cycle of Darren's daily routines. Probably tired of copying and pasting, Askaripour eventually started to itemize those passages like a list. If that's not a sign your book needed another round of editing, I don't know what is. Things got really wild on page 68, where the book should have ended, because there's no way that anyone would have continued to work at a place where a company-sanctioned hate crime was carried out against them. "They forced me to rap, pulled some KKK tar-and-feather shit on me, and made me write on a board until my fingers bled." And yet, every morning Darren goes to work, completely accepting of racism being used as a learning tool for his success or as a cute cultural prop for white people. I couldn't figure out if Darren is meant to be a martyr for all the future black salesmen of America, taking the abuse so they wouldn't have to. Somehow, Rhett manages to sell Darren on a dream with a series of vague and blanketed statements, and that's enough for Darren to continue to bite his tongue and endure. A true idiot, considering he was the valedictorian of Bronx Science. Darren becomes Rhett's right-hand man (friendly reminder that hotshot salesman Darren never really went on to sell much of anything besides coffee) and, when things go south at Sumwun, the company's Black poster child for diversity. If he wasn't feeling himself before, Darren is by this point, transforming from the sweet guy who learned Arabic to communicate with his girlfriend's father, to the guy from the hood that's suddenly too good for every body back home. And the transformation happens rather quickly, even before Darren has really proven himself, making the events which follow proceed too fast to feel real. After a series of back-to-back-to-back arguments with everyone in Bed-Stuy, Darren manages to shut those closest to him out of his life, including his ill mother. If you guessed that Darren's descent into an asshole and NWA (Negotiator with Attitude, the culturally appropriated name given to his sales team at Sumwun) was going to culminate with a life-altering event that rocks his world, you were right. His mother passes away from lung cancer, which everyone but Darren knew she had, including myself. I guess he wasn't as suspicious of all the coughed up blood, fainting, and missed shifts at the chemical factory as I was. Heartbroken, Darren ends things with his girlfriend and kicks the grandfatherly tenant Mr. Rawlings out of his house for failing to disclose his mother's illness with him. Darren channels all of that grief into the sales pitch of a lifetime, saying absolutely nothing of substance to a very important, seemingly smart man who falls for it, and somehow goes on to save Sumwun from imminent bankruptcy. Darren's a star, he's someone, just like all of the random strangers on the street told him he'd be! But he's also dead inside, having regular one night stands, hooked on coffee and coke, and plagued by nightmares about all of the people from his past life in Bed-Stuy. Needing to feel good about himself, Darren seeks out Brian and molds him into his image as a successful black salesman. Cue the makeover montage, but picture Brian selling an imaginary magazine subscription where white people dress in blackface, he gets beat up, and has the sudden confidence to pick up a girl in a bar despite two black eyes and his Seal-like face. Subjecting himself to completely unnecessary humiliation, Brian somehow also becomes a master salesman. Then comes along a ragtag group of misfits Black and brown people from all over NYC who want to get into sales as well. After a half-hearted speech about Black people having been denied the same opportunities as their white counterparts, Darren realizes that this is his mission as a Black man: "each one, teach one." Gone are the days of there being only one black or brown employee in tech and startups. He would give them all the tools needed to succeed: if they knew how to sell, they can do anything, be anyone! Black Buck also brings attention to the higher rates of incarceration and police violence against Black men. I found that especially interesting because one of Darren's teaching methods, what he refers to as "illegal homework," involves asking Black men and women to commit crimes and other questionable acts since it teaches "tone, confidence, and delivery." One such escapade leads to Brian being arrested and detained for a murder he didn't commit, another thing that happens to black men far too often. Askaripour trying to highlight these issues was ineffective when the main character, a Black man himself, has complete disregard for the consequences of encouraging criminal activity and little concern over Brian's well-being in jail. Admittedly, the only thing important to Darren at the time was making sure a job position is filled by one of his new recruits—failure to do so affected his bottom line. Though he promised to get Brian a lawyer, he did absolutely nothing to help, and turned his focus on training another recruit for the role. Juxtapose this with other conversations about Black men serving extended sentences for crimes they didn't commit, or those who go on to commit suicide when it seems no justice is in sight or as a result of traumatic experiences they endured in prison. Darren's nonchalance about Brian makes all of this extremely jarring. Brian's eventually released, and I expected him to be angry with Darren for abandoning him, but he is eternally grateful—just one of many characters in the story that idolizes Darren for no reason. Darren successfully gets the job position filled, again feeling good about himself for having "given back to the community", and he apologizes to his old friends in Bed-Stuy. The Master Salesmen of None come to be known as the Happy Campers, an educational and recruitment agency for BIPOC with chapters around the globe. Darren's able to get more Black employees in the ranks of Sumwun while seeing upward mobility himself. His racist nemesis Clyde, responds to the growing diversity by founding the White United Society of Salespeople (yes, WUSS). A race war ensues, complete with modern-day slave auctions of homeless people, chants of "white lives matter," and the revelation that Clyde is a closeted gay man in an interracial relationship. Despite blatantly racist actions themselves, WUSS manages to convince the world that Happy Campers is an anti-white terrorist organization. To silence his lies, Clyde is kidnapped by the Happy Campers and waterboarded. This, of course, after much debate between the Happy Campers on whether or not to address the race war MLK-style or Malcolm X-style. Things escalate quickly, but it doesn't end there: WUSS avenges Clyde by setting Darren's childhood home, now the Happy Campers HQ, on fire, killing Darren's Black assistant Trey, who has a comedic-crutch of a stutter. Trey ran back into the flames trying to save the object he treasured most: a photograph of him and Darren. I had to pause and laugh at the thought of someone idolizing Darren so much, they'd risk the flames just to save a photo of him! Trey is burned to a crisp, leaving nothing but a few shreds of sneaker behind. I shed no tears, but my eyes did roll. When it's revealed that Darren is the leader behind the Happy Campers, Rhett no longer wants anything to do with him. "Making things about race" just isn't cool, but since diversity is "so hot" right now, Darren's final act as a Sumwun employee will be to speak about it at a conference. In what Askaripour describes as a modern-day lynching, Darren finds himself leading a room full of 5,001 pro-WUSS bigots through a 3-minute guided meditation where their hearts are softened ever so slightly and maybe, just maybe, they can tolerate a world where there's a BIPOC in the next cubicle over. But because that wasn't a semi-decent enough place to end things, Askaripour shifts from Wolf of Wall Street meets Sorry to Bother You knock offs to John Singleton's Boyz n The Hood meets Park Chan-Wook's Vengeance Trilogy knock offs. Darren does his best friend a favor by agreeing to sell cocaine for him after a drug deal gone wrong lands him in the hospital. There's a dramatic scene in which Darren tells his worried Senegalese personal chauffeur to "drive off and don't come back if I'm not out in 15 minutes, promise me Rose" he finds himself tied up and face-to-face not just with Clyde, but Trey! Trey, who not only wasn't burned to a crisp but doesn't even have a stutter! He reveals himself as the grandson Mr. Rawlings, who later suffered a stroke that Trey ultimately blames Darren for. Wanting nothing more than to ruin Darren's life and the lives of those he loves, Trey (who, again, is Black) pitches the white-supremacy-rooted WUSS to Clyde, who also wanted revenge against Darren for ruining his bromance with Rhett. Yep. I read 380 pages of what was ultimately a bromance/family revenge tale. Using the footage they were able to obtain of Darren trading coke for cash, Trey and Clyde send Darren to prison, where he writes a book, THIS book, a guide for Black and brown people everywhere looking to better themselves through sales. Darren's closing remarks are actually a self-serving sales pitch for Askaripour himself: a request to wear the book out, reread your favorite passages, and buy new copies for your friends. I'm fine, thanks. Humor, exaggeration and societal commentary are the key ingredients to a successful satire. I've already said the humor was juvenile; I'm not sure what the target demographic was for jokes like "sharper than Michael Jackson's nose" or "colder than an Inuit's titty." Askaripour relied on humor so much that it became distracting and a likely contributor to Black Buck becoming an overly-exaggerated story that tripped over its own plot points. One of the most important topics, racism, was at times glossed over or mishandled, especially when we look at how Darren responded in those moments. He filled more seats with Black and brown people, which, yes, is extremely important, but it takes significantly more than that to address systemic and blatant racism in the work place.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chelsey (a_novel_idea11)

    Darren is a managing barista at a busy Starbucks in Manhattan just waiting for his big break. When one of his regulars comes in alone one afternoon, Darren works up the courage to pitch a new drink to him. The customer always orders the same beverage, but Darren knows another drink would be better suited to him. Able to persuade the customer to try something new, Darren realizes he may have bit off more than he can chew when the customer is so surprised that he asks Darren for a meeting in his o Darren is a managing barista at a busy Starbucks in Manhattan just waiting for his big break. When one of his regulars comes in alone one afternoon, Darren works up the courage to pitch a new drink to him. The customer always orders the same beverage, but Darren knows another drink would be better suited to him. Able to persuade the customer to try something new, Darren realizes he may have bit off more than he can chew when the customer is so surprised that he asks Darren for a meeting in his office. Darren skips out on the meeting, claiming it isn't the "right" opportunity. But Rhett, the customer, refuses to take no for an answer. And so begins Darren's adventure into sales. Walking into the Manhattan high-rise, Darren is taken aback by just how white and non-diverse the start-up is. Worse, racism seems to underscore every aspect of the company, from the names of the rooms, to the hiring practices, to how the employees see and treat one another. Sales is a sink or swim, dog-eat-dog world and it seems the entire company, except Rhett, may be against a Black man succeeding in "their" arena. What did Rhett see in Darren that made him so special? And will it be enough to help Darren survive not only hell week, but a sales career in general? This was a really fantastic book that tackles the super important and relevant topic of race and racism, as well as a multitude of related issues such as white privilege, reverse racism, gentrification, stereotypes, and microaggressions. Additionally, many aspects of the book almost felt like a self-help novel with life advice and sales tips and tricks scattered throughout. Darren was a relatable and generally likeable character. It was easy to empathize with his rise and falls, relationships with other characters, and decision-making (though sometimes I wanted to shake him and yell 'what are you doing?!?'). I loved the writing style. The storyline flowed and I really liked that Darren often provided premonitions to let us know where the story was going, without really giving anything away. The plotline ended up in a direction I would not have predicted, but it worked well for the story and made the stylistic choices (i.e. tidbits of advice) really make sense. I wouldn't say this book has a happy ending or that it was necessarily a "feel-good" book, however, again, I thought that worked for story and made it much more realistic. Unfortunately, racism and classism very much exist and for many people who experience racism and hatred directed toward them on a regular basis, there isn't a happy ending. This book was eye-opening in a lot of ways and really shines a light on white privilege and the lack of opportunities for minorities, impoverished, and disabled individuals. I absolutely recommend this book and think it would be a great choice for a book club or buddy read. Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, BookishFirst, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    breana / milkyboos ♡

    you ever finish a book and decide that you will buy and support everything the author releases in the future forever? yup, me too. just now. with this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kelly (and the Book Boar)

    I should’ve known from the Middle Passage to never trust a white man who says, “Take a seat.” It could be your last. Do y’all read for a specific purpose? I am 100% a mood reader and I’m also of the mindset that if I have to force myself to read something specifically for a cause (like Black History Month) there’s a solid chance I’m part of the problem rather than the solution. I ended up reading Black Buck yesterday simply for the fact that my turn had come around at the library and I know o I should’ve known from the Middle Passage to never trust a white man who says, “Take a seat.” It could be your last. Do y’all read for a specific purpose? I am 100% a mood reader and I’m also of the mindset that if I have to force myself to read something specifically for a cause (like Black History Month) there’s a solid chance I’m part of the problem rather than the solution. I ended up reading Black Buck yesterday simply for the fact that my turn had come around at the library and I know one of my own personal friends had lamented about the length of the waiting list so I wanted to make sure I turned it over to the next patron as quickly as possible. Just putting it out there because I’d feel like a fraud if I was pretending I’m real “woke” when in reality I didn't even know it wasn't January 97th yesterday (I mean was January long as fuck or what?). Anyway, that disclosure being disclosed, here’s a warning for you: if you are not a fan of satire, there’s about a trillion percent chance you’re going to find yourself immediately saying . . . My advice to you is put the book down and walk away slowly because you’ll probably never “get it.” Black Buck is the story of Darren – a 22-year old underachiever from Bed-Stuy who has been slinging beans at a Manhattan Starbucks for the past four years. When he “sells” a better cup of coffee to an obvious kingpen of industry who comes into the store at least three times a day, he’s recruited to become a “Sumwun” and is introduced to the fast paced lifestyle of the corporate salesman where the rule of law is to . . . . Some cringe-worthy in their reality themes that are presented time and again are . . . . And a company full of non-diverse people led by whities who continually broadcast . . . . Which, obviously means . . . . This book had a great beginning and an even better “MAGA” type of crescendo, but unfortunately the middle became a bit of a mess for me where it got sidetracked one too many times (it probably could have stood a heavier handed editor to bump it up a star for me). Still, a thinker of a read that I would give 3 Stars.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sheena

    Black Buck is a satirical novel that offers a unique take on race and justice. Darren is a manager at Starbucks until one day Rhett Daniels , CEO of SumWun sees potential in him and offers him the opportunity of a life time. From there, things begin to look up and may possibly slowly spiral out of control. Darren himself is an interesting character. We watch his gradual change from Darren to Buck and how it affects not only himself, but the people closest to him. Throughout the book, we get tips Black Buck is a satirical novel that offers a unique take on race and justice. Darren is a manager at Starbucks until one day Rhett Daniels , CEO of SumWun sees potential in him and offers him the opportunity of a life time. From there, things begin to look up and may possibly slowly spiral out of control. Darren himself is an interesting character. We watch his gradual change from Darren to Buck and how it affects not only himself, but the people closest to him. Throughout the book, we get tips on how to be a salesman and I actually found some of them to be helpful. The book is meant to be grossly exaggerated and dramatic but honestly, it seemed very accurate given the circumstances of race and social justice in current America. It is so real in how racism affects the work place but also a day to day basis. It also tackles homelessness, gentrification, stereotypes, and white privilege. It does begin to drag at some parts but I see why the book was so long because it takes you in so many different directions that I really didn’t see coming. When I finished the book I stared off into the distance like “what just happened and what did I just read?” Askaripour takes us on quite a journey. I would call this a contemporary thriller but it’s definitely unlike any other book I have read with the mix of genres. I could definitely see this adapted into a tv series or a movie. I had a hard time rating this but settled on four stars because of the unique content this book brings. Thank you to Netgalley and to the publisher for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Meet Darren Vender, a 22-year-old Black man who lives with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone. He works as a coffee barista at Starbucks until he is lured away by Rhett Daniels, who heads an up-and-coming company called Sumwun. Rhett teaches Darren how to sell—the kind of selling where the salesperson does not accept no as an answer. Darren's life completely changes--and not always for the better. Askaripour’s debut novel takes satire to a whole new level. It takes aim at capitalism dependent up Meet Darren Vender, a 22-year-old Black man who lives with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone. He works as a coffee barista at Starbucks until he is lured away by Rhett Daniels, who heads an up-and-coming company called Sumwun. Rhett teaches Darren how to sell—the kind of selling where the salesperson does not accept no as an answer. Darren's life completely changes--and not always for the better. Askaripour’s debut novel takes satire to a whole new level. It takes aim at capitalism dependent upon hard-core selling, the white dominance prevalent in sales forces, the lure of measuring one’s worth in the amount of money one earns, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism inherent in sales work. Enjoy!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laura Tenfingers

    This was fantastic! Here we meet Darren, a black man living in NYC, high school valedictorian working at Starbucks. He's smart, kind, caring, and pretty happy. But everyone he cares about wants him to reach his potential, be the man they know he can be, etc. Then an opportunity presents itself, and to please said people, he takes it. And all manner of hell breaks loose. I found this book to be a great mixture of hilarity, inspiration and confrontation with racism. It was really smart and engaging This was fantastic! Here we meet Darren, a black man living in NYC, high school valedictorian working at Starbucks. He's smart, kind, caring, and pretty happy. But everyone he cares about wants him to reach his potential, be the man they know he can be, etc. Then an opportunity presents itself, and to please said people, he takes it. And all manner of hell breaks loose. I found this book to be a great mixture of hilarity, inspiration and confrontation with racism. It was really smart and engaging and kept me in with our main character, Buck, formerly known as Darren, even when he lost his way. I didn't give it 5 stars because there was a period in the book when our departure from reality became a bit tedious and I almost got bored, and because the sales pitches that were touted as genius didn't blow me away as much as I felt like the author was expecting them to. But I still highly recommend it and will definitely read more of his work. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Netgalley for a review copy. The opinions stated here are my own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    Solid and ambitious debut. Really funny in parts. Reads like a movie for sure. Would be great on screen. The book went on way too long but what I liked I really liked and what lagged really lagged. Audiobook reader is great!

  30. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Black Buck, sharp, hilarious, heavy and gripping! Black Buck is Mateo Askaripour debut novel about a Black man who joins the sales team of a start-up company. Twenty-two-year-old, Darren is a Barista at Starbucks, he is supposed to be going to college, as his mother remains him daily, but he is content just being a Barista. While he knows deep down being a Barista for the rest of his life is not practical, right now he wants to spend his time with his girlfriend, best friend and mother. One day Black Buck, sharp, hilarious, heavy and gripping! Black Buck is Mateo Askaripour debut novel about a Black man who joins the sales team of a start-up company. Twenty-two-year-old, Darren is a Barista at Starbucks, he is supposed to be going to college, as his mother remains him daily, but he is content just being a Barista. While he knows deep down being a Barista for the rest of his life is not practical, right now he wants to spend his time with his girlfriend, best friend and mother. One day the CEO of one of the buzziest NYC start-up walks into Darren’s Starbucks, Darren pitches him a new coffee, he said yes to the coffee and offered him a new job… a job that will change his whole life. First let me say, if you are in sales, looking to get into sales this would be a great book to read. I really enjoyed how the author was able to drop in tidbits of sales advice throughout the book. I also feel after finishing this book I could pitch water to a camel, but I digress. Overall this book was ok-good. I felt the book started off really strong, I was invested, I needed to see how this opportunity presented to Darren turned out. From getting the job to the sales training, the author was writing fire! I did think the middle dragged a lot, entirely too much for my taste. It then began to spiral into the unlikely and ridiculous and I kinda wished his editor had reeled it in a bit. I also felt the book went on for much longer than necessary and a lot of the same conversations kept repeating. I think more time could have been spend dividing into Darren's character. I felt we didnt see him grieve certain losses. While I did not see the twist coming, I felt the character motivation was lacking- WHY would they do that? It is seemed so far fetched really. With all that, I still wanted to know what happened and how things turned out and that is a testament to the author’s writing, I was still interested! I heard the audio is really good. I did enjoy this, give it a go! P.S. I wonder what became of the girl and her market size pig.....

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