Cover Image: Black Buck

Black Buck

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A young Blackman, Darren (aka: Buck), working at Starbucks get propositioned with a shot at a new career in sales for a fresh start-up company. Buck takes the job, suffers through a rigorous training period, and then flourishes into on the companies very best salesman. This satirical representation of modern day corporate America is riddled with racism, misogyny, and gaslighting. Buck’s story takes some real wild turns as he battles with his ideas of success, ambition, and community. 

Sincere thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I found this book confusing and found myself bored and uninterested. I can understand why this was such a hit for others, but it really did not do it for me.
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Darren, a 22-year old with a beautiful girlfriend, loving mother and a job he enjoys  lives in his own apartment in his mom’s brownstone enjoying the proximity and his independence. Some would say the former high school valedictorian who didn’t go to college is an underachiever and is wasting his talents because, for the last 4 years, he’s been content to work at Starbucks as a “masterful” supervisory barista. But Darren is happy and loves his life and says he’s waiting for the RIGHT opportunity to come along. That opportunity arrives when a customer notices Darren’s potential and hires him as a salesman for a virtual therapy company.  In spite of racially insensitive hazing, Darren soon becomes a success. But at what cost?  As he drinks the company Kool-aid, Darren’s friends and family see him change in frightening and disappointing ways. Darren doesn’t see it that way.  

This book is satire illustrating in an exaggerated way the type of workplace racism black people face. Darren compartmentalizes it and views it as part of the landscape he must navigate to prove that he can compete, win, and get what he wants.  The book includes outrageous micro-agressions.  His mentor nicknames him “Buck,” both because he’s a former Starbucks employee and because he knows Darren will make a million bucks.  But we all are familiar with the “black buck” stereotype ladled onto African American men.  Also, in his all white environment, Darren is told by almost every white person he meets that he reminds them of some famous black person — from MLK Jr to Sidney Poitier to Morgan Freeman.  Now, we ALL know those men don’t look anything alike. 

Black Buck is an interesting, funny, and at times sad coming of age story that raises many questions. What price will you pay for success? Is upward mobility really “upward” in a spiritual and moral sense?

Black Buck has received TONS of accolades and is heralded as a “Best” for 2021 fiction.  Deservedly so.
Thank you, NetGalley for an advance copy.
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This book was not what I was expecting! A satirical look at race and class with many twists and turns at the end. The story follows Darren on his rise to salesmen stardom when he up sells a cup of coffee to Rhett, the founder of a new start up. From the very beginning the racism both covert and outright that Darren, nicknamed Buck, face are front and center. Given the real life events of this last year, this felt poingnant, satire aside. The first half of the book was captivating. Clyde was the overt and delusional white suprematist while Rhett was the more insidious type of racism that white people don’t even recognize. The middle of the book kind of lost but I got roped back in with all the twists at the end.
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This book is so vivid in terms of characters, plot, and the capitalism and social inequity in our world. I was blown away by Mateo Askaripour's writing and Buck's journey, the good and the bad. This is certainly a book that is so much more than its summary. I highly recommend diving in and being blown away.
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This book had me from page 1 - I was all in. I worked at Starbucks when I was in university and so much of that culture and daily routine resonated with me based on people I knew and customers I had, and when the narrative moved away from that space, I was already so invested in the characters and language that I wasn't sorry to see it go. 

This book was uncomfortable to read a lot of the time, and I don't typically enjoy watching a beloved character make "bad" decisions, but in this case I could so easily see why it was happening and how it was rooted in the horribly racist environment he was working in. As things were coming apart for our protagonist, I couldn't help but root for him and assume that we would see him work everything out. 

The writing and dialogue in this book was bananas good to top it all off. Such an immersive and plotty book that doesn't skimp on authentic character development. Highly recommended.
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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour is a book that is just buzzing with electricity! When we first meet Darren, he is a Starbucks manager in NYC with close-knit family/friends. He’s incredibly bright, but never really reached his potential, preferring to be a big fish in a small pond vs. taking real risks. He gets recruited to a sales team for a rising start-up app SumWun that provides individuals with someone to talk to at any time. He falls in with its enigmatic CEO and quickly becomes a rising star within the company. Through his meteoric rise I had no idea where the story would go. Black Buck is satire and some of the references made my mouth drop and made me laugh out loud. I loved how surprising some of these elements were, touching on race, masculinity, sales, etc. The pacing is really good and I love how Darren’s/Buck’s character changes and grows. I listened to the audiobook, which was masterfully narrated by Zeno Robinson. I loved how his voice captured the energy of the book. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything quite like this novel, and it was so well-done! 

Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
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kinda loved this one. really interesting satire that looks at race and class and tech bro culture. I actually listened to this one on audio and thought the narrator did a fantastic job. Is it it goes a little off the rails in the back half, but ultimately I enjoyed a lot about it.
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Benjamin Franklin once said, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
Perhaps author Mateo Askaripour missed the "or" in Ben Franklin's quote when he chose to do both. He wrote the dark satire, Black Buck, that is worth reading and also is worthy of writing about his activism and raising awareness for organizations like Defy Ventures.
Black Buck is the story of 22 year old, Darren Vender, former valedictorian at Bronx Science High School, still living in the Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother. Darren chose to enter the workforce after high school rather than the traditional college route.
Now a shift supervisor at a Park Avenue Starbucks, Darren is the perfect employee; hard-working, committed, likable and a great salesman. Art Turock once said, "There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit. When you're committed to something, you except no excuses, just result." That quote was featured on the back of a Starbucks cup but describes Darren to a tee.
Darren has dreams and aspirations of making it big, he just needs one person to give him a shot.
Enter Rhett Daniels, good-looking, rich, white and CEO of tech start-up company, SUNWUM. Rhett offers Darren that shot with an entry-level sales job in his company.
There is where author Askaripour shines as he writes of the treatment black Darren, now called Buck, receives from the all-white sales team at SUNWUM. He doesn't trivialize Darrens experiences or sugarcoat the characters actions, 
This maybe a work of fiction but this dark satire is all too real for people of color. The racist stereotypes are rampant and the challenges that people of color must overcome may be shocking to some but it is profoundly sad to see how far we have to go to have a more diverse work force in America.
Mateo's book while full of humor and sadness, is a cautionary tale of that slippery slope when we don't learn from the lessons that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to teach us, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."
I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. #NetGalley #BlackBuck
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"I didn’t want to start my career, especially as the only Black person in the room, as some wind-up monkey that would bang his cymbals whenever white people wanted him to.”


As someone who has been the only Black person in an all white office environment, I definitely related to this book as far as the frustration goes of being in that position goes. It felt like being under a microscope at all times and I had to conduct myself a certain way at all times while others didn’t. Also dealing with stereotypes. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when they found out I attended Catholic school. 🙃

The story is told in five parts. I really enjoyed the first three parts. Part four lost me a little not going to lie. Part 5 was buck wild (see what I did there) and I didn’t expect that ending at all!!
This was a solid debut and I’m highly anticipating Askaripour next novel.
This quote took me out clean.

“If you’re a black man, the key to any white person’s heart is the ability to shuck, jive or freestyle. But use it wisely and sparingly. Otherwise you’re liable to turn into Steve Harvey.”


CW: One of the main characters calls the workers the “r” word.
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That is not what I was expecting from this story. The entire time I’m listening to this, I’m thinking what a ridiculous work environment and how is this going to set anyone up for success? And then I get a bombed dropped on me. This went so much deeper and so much more corrupt than I was expecting. 

Black Buck explores the modern American work force, racism, and our severely lacking justice system all in one novel. The author also goes into depth with consequences in regards to your choices, posing a great question of where do you see yourself and how are you going to get there while also being mindful of your actions and how they make an impact, whether it be an impact on yourself or others? 

On another note completely unrelated to the content of the novel or story, this cover is so eye catching! I really love it.

<i> I received an electronic copy of this novel prior to release from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.</i>
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This was one of the most memorable books I’ve read in a long time. It’s dark satire that’s compulsively readable- Darren, or "Buck" is a character I couldn't look away from. Parts of this book absolutely infuriated and appalled me, which I think is part of the point. (Note, there is usage of the N and R words). It's about sales culture and being a BIPOC person in a white man's world and the backlash that can come with success. It's about the pervasiveness of white supremacy and the lengths those in power will go to to protect the status quo. And through this all, it maintained moments of tenderness and humor. 

This is a book that holds no punches on the structural inequalities and the implicit/explicit racism present in the corporate world and some mainstream media. As a satire, it’s easy to dismiss the buffoonery and antics of the book’s aggrieved white people who resent Buck’s astronomical rise and deploy horrific tactics to destroy him. It may be tempting to think the author lazily evokes a caricature of real people, until one recalls with unease the social justice movement of 2020 and the rhetoric, actions, and biases it exposed. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The prose and storyline are almost cinematic; would make a GREAT Netflix adaptation. 

It reminded me of Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s We Cast a Shadow, and I think it would make for a great discussion. I'm very much looking forward to reading more from the author!
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I can already tell that Black Buck will stay with me for a long time. What a fantastic debut, it was thought provoking and came from an important and needed perspective when addressing race, class, and sexism. This will be a book I know I’ll buy to gift! Highly recommend.
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A frequently funny but finally unsettling consideration of the places bucks, black and green, occupy in the grinding world of American enterprise capitalism.
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I tried multiple times to read this novel and I can't get past 20%. I purchased a paper copy of this from my bookstore and am hoping that the format will help a little here. I really want to like this but online reading is not working for me on this one!
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Mateo Askaripour is, to borrow the words of the protagonist of his debut novel Black Buck, “a black salesman on a mission”, and in true salesman fashion, begins by selling you his book. Once you have parted with your money, he proceeds to sell you his story, and my goodness, what a story!

Darren is twenty two years old, content to be the shift supervisor at Starbucks- he would rather stay near his mom and girlfriend than get out of his comfort zone to seek the greatness that everyone around him believes that he is destined for. So what if he was the valedictorian at the Bronx School of Science? Not everyone gets to be the Head Negro in Charge at Starbucks, and a pretty good one at that. So good that he manages to sell to the CEO of the flashy startup on the 36th floor something different from his regular order, and to the customer’s surprise, he actually likes it. Now in sales, if everyone who tries to sell is a salesman and everyone who manages to sell is a good salesman, then everyone who sells to the satisfaction of the customer must be a great salesman. So what is he doing here as a barista at Starbucks? Rhett tells Darren that he is destined for greatness (old news) and to meet him on the 36th floor to see what it’s like in the world of sales.

Does Darren go easily? No. For all his hidden potential, he does not want to give up a comfortable job that allows him to be close to both his mom and girlfriend. After a whole lot of coaxing, he gives in and enters a new phase of his life: as Buck the lone black shee—salesman. (Let’s not talk about the erasure of identity.) He has a hell of a training- partly because of the nature of his job and partly because he is black. (Oh, not the race card again! Hasn’t America overcome racism? It is the 21st century, for goodness’ sake! Tell that to George Floyd. And it is a bit too soon to forget Donald Trump.) And then Darren aka Buck is thrown head first into salesmanship and takes us along.

What makes this book so special?
Well, apart from throwing light on present day racism and the denial that modern society is in? Apart from black empowerment without violence? It is a great Bildungsroman told by a talented storyteller- it has humour, relationship drama, tragedy and self-realisation, with a bit of sales 101 on the side. 

Why do I like it?
Being from a minority in India, I can understand very well how difficult it is for Buck to enter and stay in a place/position that his people has been kept away from, whether intentionally or not. My dad is kind of a Happy Camper himself. We learn, we get in, we try to let others learn and pave way for their empowerment as well. That’s what I like about Darren— albeit reluctantly, he taught others his trade. He could have been THE single black man out there, the one who made the difference, but he doesn’t covet that position. He does realise his true potential in the end- not as a great salesman, but rather as a great man.
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Darren is a 22-year-old black man living with his mother in BedStuy, ex-valedictorian of his school that never went to college, now working at a central-NYC Starbucks, serving coffee to all the top-notch executives and CEOs of nearby startups and companies. He isn't really excited about where his life is going, in between his barista dead-end job, his long-term girlfriend Soraya, and his Ma scolding him all the time about not living up to his potential, but he does nothing to change it. Up until the day Rhett Daniels, the CEO of Sumwun, a tech startup that no one knows exactly what it sells, comes in at Starbucks and Darren tries to pitch him a different kind of coffee, just to prove to himself that he can. Rhett is thorougly impressed by his salesman skills and offers him a job at Sumwun. But, on his first day at his new job, Darren comes across an all-white staff that keep telling him he reminds them of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Sidney Poitier, and all the other famous black men in history, with managers and other co-workers being overtly racist and hostile to him, making him work the extra mile for the job. And that's when Darren decides to fight back and become the best black salesman in America.

Mateo Askaripour's debut novel is a dark, brooding satire on corporate America, startup environments and the systemic racism and racial prejudice they inhabit. Darren's story of climbing up the corporate ladder in this strange, cult-like company bears resemblance to Boots Riley's "Sorry to bother you", in the way that they both go over the top at times, with almost surrealist plot twists, that are actually used to serve the allegory on today's racist America. Written as a mock-memoir and also as a self-help business book, "Black Buck" is a darkly comic story of an amoralistic ride to the top and, at the same time, of black men and women fighting back against their oppressors, but this time using the tools of salespeople and playing by the rules of corporate environments. Not a masterpiece in social commentary, but really fun to read.
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Black Buck is quite possibly one of my favourite Audiobooks I've ever listened to. This book was quite a ride, it made me feel every emotion all within 11 hours and I truly never wanted this book to end. A Black salesman in a Wolf of Wall Street satirical world that felt too close to the real world, I could not get enough. Can not recommend the audio version of this book enough.

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advanced copy of this book.
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"Black Buck" is a satire based in a tech start-up company in New York City.  Mateo Askaripour wrote this book in the style of a self-help novel.  Parts of the story are interrupted by Darren, the narrator, as he describes his experience as a black man in a predominantly white tech start-up.   While the story is funny at times, it is also shocking and cringe-worthy.  Overall, this is a very relevant book to read at this time.
#NetGalley   #BlackBuck
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It was hard for me to fully connect with Darren, but once I did the book became much more enjoyable. I absolutely adore the relationship between him and his mother, however it pained me to read about what he was subjected to while trying to live up to her expectation of him reaching his full potential. What I loved about the story were the moments that the author connected with the reader, in my mind I saw it as a breaking of the fourth wall. Also, I think this would translate amazingly on screen if there was ever the opportunity to do so.
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