Cover Image: Black Buck

Black Buck

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Member Reviews

In all honesty, I didn’t find this book to be as humorous as some other reviews have stated. Possibly, it’s just not my kind of humor. I can appreciate the running joke of “have your ever heard you look like...” however that was really the only part that was funny to me.

The main character made me sad- which is possibly the point- but I just found him so unlikeable towards the end of the story. I was obviously rooting for him as an underdog at the beginning, and when he “lost his way” I was hoping some redeeming qualities would shine through by the end of the story. But for me, he just became even more unlikable and I was ready to stop reading about him. 

I think the idea of the novel was great and I loved the diversity it represented. However, I REALLY disliked hearing the word “retard” (yuck I don’t even like typing that out) several times through the story. The use of that word is NEVER, EVER funny in any form or fashion and is a huge turn off for me. I really hope the author realizes how harmful that word is and doesn’t use it in any of his future novels. 

Thank you so much to netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour is almost two stories in one novel. The first part, about Buck's rise from Starbucks barista to startup sales darling, felt almost too familiar. The second part, though, was completely unexpected in so many ways.

Buck is living in Bed-Stuy and working contentedly at a Manhattan Starbucks when he upsells (sort of -- it's a great scene and a great look at Buck's character) a startup founder and gets offered a job in sales.

Buck's hazed and harassed, constantly, at this new job. His hazing isn't covered with what? I was just joking, you're so uptight, though, the way it is for most women working in tech startups. Instead, it's presented as an essential part of the job. Buck isn't even his name -- it's a nickname from "Starbucks," just in case he forgets what his last job was.  I thought this whole section was terribly realistic. We love to say that the American dream is accessible to everyone who works hard, and we love a good rags-to-riches story, right? But there's plenty of shame and hostile jokes when the startup tech bros find out your last job was waitressing.

Sumwum feels like any Silicon Alley startup, where the swag, the extremely visible office perqs, and the high-energy group activities almost entirely obscure what's being made or sold. Their business model is based on selling wellness and happiness, and it's clear that Sumwum's profit comes from charging companies thousands for employee wellness, and paying out a couple dollars an hour to the life coach "assistants" found in developing countries. (For another fictional look at the wellness industry, check out Happy And You Know It.)

But when the company's in trouble, Buck's brought out to show young Black sales talent, in a way that felt too familiar as a woman at a tech startup.

The second part of Black Buck is an almost total departure. I spent the first part of this novel feeling like Buck's startup experiences were so familiar and recognizable, and the second part having no idea where anything was going and what would happen next. The whole thing is told in first-person, and I'd connected with Buck enough in the beginning that I was still on for the absolute wild ride that came next.

Buck's making a killing with his high-risk, high-reward sales life.  He has loads of powerful connections, high-stakes work and fun in Manhattan, even if the Bed-Stuy part of his life isn't going well.  He's almost a different person here. Buck's complete reversal from never drinking alcohol (or even coffee!) to casually doing a line in the car was a bit hard to accept.  Still, he's enough of himself to help his old Starbucks coworker learn sales, even though he's kind of a dick about it, the way the Sumwum management was to him.

Helping to teach someone else leads to wider questions of what Buck owes his community, and what even is the difference between selling promises at a startup and selling on the street. There are elements of satire and exaggeration, but by this point, I was so invested in his story that I accepted it to see what came next.  From here, the story blends systems of racism and privilege into a completely wild ride (a secret code for hiring! I mean, one that isn't going to an Ivy or having family connections), with the return of themes from the first section, into a strange and believable ending.
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Black Buck is about a man named Darren Vender who is recruited to work at a new startup company. The story explores what he’s willing to do to achieve and keep professional success and how that impacts all the relationships around him. I didn’t see the end coming from where the novel started, but thought this was an amazing read. I loved the dark, sarcastic humor and the commentary on race. It definitely made me cringe in places, but unfortunately is probably pretty accurate for what some people experience. This story explores the transitions in Darren “Buck’s” relationships with his family, his friends, his coworkers and the choices he makes and the regrets he has to live with. This was a great read and I would love to see it made into a movie.
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A satisfying read. Most of the characters are flawed, unlikable sometimes BUT in progress. Hustling, striving, and attempting to make sense of their world and how they can change it. 

ARC from publisher via NetGalley but the opinions are solely my own.
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I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading Black Buck by, new to me author, Mateo Askaripour but am so glad to have read this book!  I was quickly whisked away by a tale that kept spinning in different directions, so don't think you know where it's going.  Darren, while working in a Starbucks in Bed-Stuy, NY  is discovered by Rhett Daniels, CEO of a tech startup Sumwun, and persuaded to join its Sales team.  Darren notices that he is the only Black employee in this hip company and is immediately assigned the nickname, Buck, while hazed during the hell week like orientation.  Buck's career takes off from there.  The book reads as a how to for Black Salespeople, with life advice disguised as sales tidbits.  To be honest, when I first finished Black Buck I thought it might have been too far-fetched, too stereo typical.  But the book stayed with me. And as I thought about it more, I appreciated the satire and all the messages that evolved in this story.  The racism isn't exaggerated but we're just not expecting the brute portrayal woven into a comical hip novel. l  I'm wondering if that thinking characters were stereo-typical says more about me, and that was Askaripour's point.  While racism is the forefront of this novel, in a very slap you in the face way, there is so much more.  It covers relationships, what would you sacrifice for a "successful" career,  and how will success change you? Most importantly, this book will continue to weave the thoughts in your head long after you've finished it! #Netgalley #BlackBuck
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Darkly comic debut from a talented writer, Mateo Askaripour. This is a satirical take on a young black man, Darren “Buck” Vender, from Bed-Stuy inexplicably landing his dream job in high pressure Sales at an (all-white) tech start up. After a shaky start, Buck skyrockets to success through his natural talent and copious attention from the firm’s founder himself. Everything is perfect...until it isn’t, and the ending was, for me, jaw dropping. 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 can feel like the author lazily evokes a caricature of real people, until one uneasily recalls 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. This is of my 5-star reads for 2021.
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This was a fantastic, eye-opening read. Witty and sarcastic, it gives us a much-needed perspective on what it's like to be the one black one in a sea of white. I cannot emphasize enough, how delighted I am to find these books and how much I learn from the world through these authors' views!
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“My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight.”
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Written as a self-help manual for Black people hoping to break into the sales world, Black Buck tells the story of Darren Vender who is plucked from a Starbucks by a white man who ‘see’s something in him.’ Darren quickly finds that he’s the only Black man working at a (horrific, my word) tech start-up. But his meteoric rise at the company despite overt and subtle racism leads to an even bigger fall.
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I’ve seen people DNF this book because they didn’t think it landed. In my initial run of this review I wrote it off as confusion between comic humor and satire — but help from a friend led to some reflection. I could read this book without trauma or real world experience lurking over my shoulder. Askaripour’s commentary on our allegedly post-racial world is dark, smart and skewering — I was uncomfortable — but had the privilege of reading through a white lens
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I think it’s important to understand the historical significance of the title. In post-Reconstruction America, Black Buck was a slur used to describe Black men who refused to bend to white authority. They were often labeled violent, rude and lecherous (showing offensive sexual desire). Knowing this, I was able to draw parallels between Darren’s modern day journey and how it wasn’t so different from what Black men have dealt with for centuries.
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A book for the moment and beyond, Black Buck is a fast-paced read that will leave you uneasy – but it’s well worth your time.
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I saw this book all over bookstagram and while it’s not my typical genre of choice, I’m always open to branching out and I’m glad I did!

This was a clever, fresh and extremely entertaining debut novel that gave me full The Wolf of Wall Street vibes.

I really enjoyed how as a dark comedy type of read that it managed to present as a meaningful satire as it tackled some really important and heavy topics of race, stereotypes, white privilege and the dark side of corporate culture.

It also dabbled a little into the self help genre and presented as a sales manual with Buck’s “Sales Tips” interjections. Being in sales myself, I really appreciated this aspect!

My relationship with Darren/Buck was a true rollercoaster ride! I immediately fell in love with him but found myself personally struggling with who he was becoming in the middle. Ultimately, I’m glad he was able to win me back!

All in all, as a huge fan of sarcasm, I thoroughly enjoyed this fun, witty and thought provoking book!

“The day that changed my life was like every other day before it, except that it changed my life”
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Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have mixed feelings about this one. This book is bleak, disturbing at times, way over the top... yet quite compelling. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it. Satire or not, it’s hard for me to read a book where every woman character is entirely one dimensional. I also found the greater conversation surrounding the ethics of sales to be lacking. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a friend, I definitely appreciate the originality of Black Buck.
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Black Buck
Rating: 📚📚📚📚

This satirical office drama focused on the life of Darren, a young black man from Bed-Stuy in NYC who was valedictorian of his high school but ended up as the manager of a Starbucks in the city. When Darren pitches a new drink to a customer who turns out to be the CEO of a startup, he is offered a job on the spot for his excellent sales skills. Darren quickly discovers he is the only black person in the company, and is navigating his new job and staying true to himself. This book is told from Darren’s point of view and was laugh out loud funny at times. 

I really enjoyed this book and although there were some heavy topics within, the humor mixed in was a perfect balance. I loved this story and @mateofriends is an amazing storyteller!

Thank you so much to @netgalley and @hmhbooks for the digital copy!
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Unexpected and sometimes emotionally difficult to read. The abusirdity in the novel rings true and ampilifies the craziness of black experiances.
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Darren "Buck" Vender, the valedictorian of Bronx Science, was content with his life working at a Starbuck's, had a beautiful girlfriend, and lived with his mother.  Rhett Daniels, a start-up CEO of Sumwun, recognized Darren's potential and invited him to join his company as the only black salesperson.  

This life-changing encounter changed Buck's trajectory forever as he developed a ruthless ambition for money and power.  The once kind and present person in his family and community, now turned into someone no one recognized or wanted to be around.  Being the only black salesperson in the cutthroat, cult-like atmosphere gave Buck an idea to change it.  He starts training other black men and women on how to sell themselves to get better jobs.  This idea spins out of control until his life starts to implode.   

Black Buck was completely different than I was expecting and the audiobook was fantastic.  I was hooked right away.  The novel is relevant, fast-paced, and made me laugh and reflect often during the transformation and rollercoaster journey of the characters.  Matteo Askaripour's satirical novel infused sales philosophies and lessons while exposing the injustices and lack of diversity in the workforce. 

Thank you for NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me the opportunity to read the book for an honest review.
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The unique thing about this book was that the narrator broke the 4th wall with the reader. It was part story-telling, part sales manual. Buck, our main character, is given a golden opportunity. He is a changed man, and it puts a strain on many relationships in his life. He takes that opportunity to help the BIPOC community learn skills so they are successful in sales at various startups. He faces adversity for it from white people, who claim “reverse racism” (FYI - reverse racism is not real!).
I’m not sure what to rate this one as I’m still wrapping my head around it. I definitely tore through it, and I was immediately hooked. I would recommend this book to others.
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Darren was the valedictorian of his class at one of the best public schools in the nation but is now working as a supervisor at a Manhattan Starbucks. He is content with his life: living with his mom in Bed-Stuy, spending time with his girlfriend Soraya, and working his no stress job. He is very unambitious. Then a impresses a startup CEO with his coffee sales skills and is offered a job in sales at Sumwun. Darren is the only Black employee at the company and gets some flack from his boss and some definite profiling. Darren goes through an intense week of training and during training is dubbed "Buck". Darren tries to live up to his new role as Buck, the hotshot sales person. The company has a scandal and Buck thinks its all over, but can things turn around? He comes up with a plan to help educate other down on their luck BIPOC to become hotshots in sales.

This was a fun read! It was satirical and witty with observations aplenty about today's society AND today's corporate society. This was a very clever and well written book. I related to so much that was going on and laughed at times. The sly observations about today's world were on point. This was Askaripour's debut novel but I am really hoping to read more by this author in the future.
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I’ve given myself a chance to reflect on this book some because I still am not sure how I feel about it. My ratings were all over the place at different points of the book. It’s is definitely different than anything else I’ve read in awhile-and that’s good and it’s not good. There’s a lot of satire, which I’m in favor of, but there were also a lot of points where the story just didn’t work for me, and the main character, Buck-nicknamed because they found him working at Starbucks and said that he was going to make them millions of bucks-his development was so fast paced that it didn’t resonate. I get that in the tech start up world things move faster, but Buck went from being a loving family guy to someone who would sell his brother to make a dollar in the blink of an eye.  The story points out the vast racial divide and white privilege to the max, which is important, and even as a white woman, I got it. It was somewhat disjointed at times, but it was broken into sections of his life, so that made it a littler easier to put together. 
That being said, as long as it was, it was a fairly quick read and it’s worth going along for the roller coaster ride.
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2.5 STARS (increased to 3) - I requested this book after hearing Mateo Askaripour speak at a session at the Ontario Library Super Conference a couple of weeks ago. His plot sounded interesting and he was quite engaging as he spoke about his debut novel. 

This is a story about a Black barista who is suddenly recruited by a big wig and thrown into the hectic pace of a corporate sales within a company that is the antithesis of diversity. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book - Darren's drive to do better, his family support and the diversity of the characters. I also liked that Askaripour was tackling concepts of racism, tokenism, sales culture, microaggressions ... but these issues were glossed over, and I think this book was trying to be too many things, giving the story a disjointed feel. 

In the remaining three-quarters of the book, the story lags considerably and becomes melodramatic with odd self-help/business blurbs added in, stiff dialogue and cringeworthy phrases with 'drier than a nun's vagina' being the low point. I ended up putting this book down several times and was disappointed with the character development and its far-fetched ending. I'm new to satire and perhaps it's simply a 'it's me, not you' thing so please read my comments with that in mind.

This is an ambitious debut that had its ups and downs for me, and I went into it wanting and expecting to like it a lot more. I appreciate what the author was going for and I realize that it is purposefully over-the-top, but this disjointed combo of satire and self-help/business how-to didn't work for me.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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4.5/5
Raw, original, honest & with a rhythm that makes it extremely binge-able. Being described as a cross-over between Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street was painfully accurate, even though I'd say that it carries some elements from The Circle as well with the glorification of the start-up/tech cult mentality and the idolisation of CEO figures. 

Very poignant and satyrical when it comes to addressing racism, bigotry, representation, perpetuation of stereotypes (black man as a thug) and diversity politics in modern professional environment, which is why it's a highly recommended read. Another theme that stood out for me was mental health among black communities as we see the protagonist struggling with anxiety and suppressing his feelings but struggles to open up to people and address them.

The ending was surprising to say the least and thus definitely memorable, even though the freedom in captivity point (vs the demands of the modern world on humans) requires a separate conversation.
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Buck is suddenly offered a job in sales at Sumwun a tech startup. Buck endures a psychologically brutal training period and working environment. He also faces many personal losses. He emerges from these trials with an insight and understanding of himself.
I found myself wishing I could advise, warn or shake some sense into Buck.
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This book was a fast-paced story that kept my attention through the end. It's an entertaining satirical story depicting everything wrong with our society.  

This book is being hailed as a cross between the Wolf of Wall Street and Sorry To Bother You, so you already get the sense that there will be huge shifts that happen throughout and Darren will experience extreme personal change. When we meet Darren, he lives with his mom, has plenty of time to hang out with his girlfriend, works at Starbucks, and is mostly satisfied with his life even though he's not tapping into his true potential. However, all that changes rapidly one fateful day, and the story unfolds from there.

But the story left me with a lot of questions. Questions like who's Cassandra? Did Darren go to a university and if so what happened there? Why could he never tell his mom about that? What happened to Darren after being the Bronx Science valedictorian? It was like the author dropped crumbs into the story and then forgot about them. 

In spite of the holes, I did mostly enjoy the story right up to the end. Why did I go through this journey with the character just to end up where we did - and this is the reason why I gave it 3 stars.  I felt let down and was not a happy camper!

But please don't go by me. You may very well be satisfied with the ending. I would still very much recommend it since it does have some drops of wisdom written throughout that one should always keep in mind.  The audio's narrator is also remarkable and captures Darren's voice perfectly!

Thank you to Netgalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Mateo Askaripour.
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