Thank you to HMH Books and Libro.Fm for an advanced copy of the book and audiobook of this story.
MATEO ASKARIPOUR was a 2018 Rhode Island Writers Colony writer-in-residence, and his writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Lit Hub, Catapult, The Rumpus, Medium, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn, and his favorite pastimes include bingeing music videos and movie trailers, drinking yerba mate, and dancing in his apartment. BLACK BUCK is his debut novel. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @AskMateo. You can also subscribe to his monthly newsletter here.
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.
Thoughts and Themes: This book tells you the story of Darren through different portions of his life. When I first started this book there were several things that through me off and things that made me not want to continue reading this story. This book is much more than just a fictional story of a Black salesman who was successful in his job. While I hated the way that Clyde treated Darren at the start of the book and how the others treated him I also saw how this was indicative of what this environment is like for a Black man.
There were some moments that I really felt for Darren through the first half of the book as everyone pushed him to achieve more. I also felt bad for him as he achieved more but didn’t know how to stay connected with who he used to be. I really was hoping that Darren would be able to find himself after the tragic events that take part in the middle of the book but was glad to see that it took longer than that.
Through the third and fourth portion of this book Darren becomes one of these unbearable characters but I kept reading because I was hoping there would be some redemption for him. While a lot of the things that he did were things that made you dislike him as a character, I could also see the things that made him this way. I really did like what Darren did through the fourth portion of the book and what he built for himself and other people of color.
I really liked how this book closes out and the lessons that are thought throughout this whole story. I really did like the twist in this portion of the book as it was really something that I didn’t see coming. I think while it is heartbreaking to watch this part unfold it also taught Buck a lesson that he needed to learn. I don’t want to ruin the book so I won’t elaborate much on this portion. The lessons are going to be different for each person who reads this book but I think the main message is to remain true to yourself even through your success.
Characters: There are several characters that you get introduced to throughout the different portions of this story. There is one character that made it really hard for me to get into the story at first because of the way that he treated Buck. It was good to see the story come full circle though and to see that while this character didn’t develop at all, we did get to see Buck develop throughout this book.
I think that the relationships that Buck has with everyone are well developed and I really liked how he realized who the important people in his life are. I liked how Buck learns about himself through the relationships that he develops and destroys throughout this story.
Writing Style: This story is written in first person and it is told in five separate parts. I thought that the separation of each of this parts was done in a great way and the transitions between each section were done well. I liked that each section was a different stage in Buck’s life and how you see his relationships with others change.