Black Buck

A Read with Jenna Pick

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Pub Date Jan 05 2021 | Archive Date Sep 03 2021

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A New York Times Bestseller 
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize

“Askaripour closes the deal on the first page of this mesmerizing novel, executing a high wire act full of verve and dark, comic energy.”
—Colson Whitehead, author of The Nickel Boys

“A hilarious, gleaming satire as radiant as its author. Askaripour has announced himself as a major talent of the school of Ralph Ellison, Paul Beatty, Fran Ross, and Ishmael Reed. Full of quick pacing, frenetic energy, absurd—yet spot on—twists and turns, and some of the funniest similes I’ve ever read, this novel is both balm and bomb.”
—Nafissa Thompson-Spires, author of Heads of the Colored People

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.
A New York Times Bestseller 
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize

“Askaripour closes the deal on the first page of this...

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ISBN 9780358380887
PRICE $26.00 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Black Buck is unlike any other book I have read. Darren, an incredibly bright 20-something, finds himself working for Rhett Daniels, CEO of an elite tech start up after 4 years of working at Starbucks. The only Black person working at Sumwun, he begins to refer to himself as Buck and becomes unrecognizable to friends and family. After tragedy hits, Buck finds himself organizing an underground society to teach young people of color skills necessary to find well paying jobs in the sales force. His life changes forever as chaos ensues.

Mateo Askaripour does an incredible job with this book. Buck tells the story to the reader, as a training manual on how to become a salesperson. He touches on race, in and out of the workplace. A serious subject, however written in a light manner. I did not find this book to be heavy or difficult to read (although there were parts that made me cringe!) It was an eye opening perspective on the workforce and how it can change a person. I highly recommend this book!

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I loved this book! First of all, I'm a Starbucks girl and secondly, I’m in sales, so I have to say I was intrigued- and hooked from the first page. The language and conversation style of writing is so engaging, it was impossible for me to put this book down! 

Black Buck offers dueling insights into how both black and white communities perceive a black man in corporate America. Darren, the Starbucks barista, is transformed into Buck, the man who can successfully sell anything. Author Mateo Askaripur takes us on a ride as he tackles significant and relevant issues, with satirical wit, which had me laughing out loud many times throughout the story. I could not help but root for Buck the entire time; as he encounters and attempts to overcome the systemic roadblocks of white privilege, as he climbs the corporate ladder, and as he extends a hand to help other people of color find a path to success. 

The characters in the story are masterfully crafted by Askaripour. I have to extend an honorable mention to Wild Cat, I just loved him and his wisdom! Askaripour infuses all of the people around Buck with a plausibility that makes their personal journeys believable, inspiring and compelling, to the very last page of the book.

What an excellent job the author did with this debut, I have become a big fan and look forward to future books.

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From the first page of Chapter 1, I knew this was going to be a compelling story. Narrated in the first person by Buck himself, Darren Vender, he tells his story of becoming a salesman and reaching his “full potential” as the only black salesman in the company. His story starts while he is working at Starbucks several years after he graduated as valedictorian of his class, unmotivated to pursue college. Once he is befriended by the head of a corporation to become a salesman, the story really takes off and, as in all good satires, just keeps going “off the rails”. Excellent read that kept my interest and went so many places: racism, stereotypes and more.

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Outrageous, satirical, hilarious, provocative, farcical, mind-blowing, brilliant - this book looks to be the first huge hit of 2021. The premise is straight forward: a young Black man is plucked from his barista job at Starbucks to be groomed, trained, and set loose in the world of NYC sales. We encounter racist bosses, abusive training methods, questionable decisions, socioeconomic disparity, unequal friendships, white privilege, neighborhood gentrification, racial bias to the nth degree; in other words, ALL the problems in America today. Darren (aka Buck) is one of the most compelling characters I have ever encountered. As he tells his tale of how to succeed in sales, I found myself inspired, infuriated, perplexed, appalled, hopeful, you name it, with his behavior and actions. This book will turn your brain upside down, and could provide the best book club discussion of the year. In other words, do not miss reading this book.

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I loved Black Buck. It was raw, original and honest. Honestly I could see it as a TV series. I felt it touches upon a lot of the issues BPIOC experience in the professional world and their personal life - feeling torn between two worlds. I did not expect that twist of an ending. I felt the characters were realistic and I think its a book that every teenager and adult should read. I hope Mateo keeps writing more books; we need his words.

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This devastating dark satire of racism in tech startup culture grabs your attention and doesn't let go. Darren, a young black man working at Starbucks, is recruited into a cult-like workplace that challenges his identity and values. As the humiliations pile up, he seeks to find his own means of surviving and thriving in this all-white environment. Laser sharp humor, keen social insight, and mastery of dialogue make Askaripour a new author to watch.

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Mr. Askaripour hits it out of the park! What an incredible read. Darren works at Starbucks, he is quite happy with his life and feels that his big break will eventually come. He is very bright, the valedictorian of his class. His friends and family think he is not living up to his full potential. One day Rhett, a founder of a start up company from several floors up in the same building walks in for a coffee. Darren proceeds to sell him on why he should try a new coffee rather than his usual. Rhett so taken with the young salesman ends up offering him a position in sales. Darren is nicknamed Buck, after Starbucks and remains Buck for the remainder of the story. He rises to success despite many obstacles including Hell Week and much discrimination. He begins to change with his success and not always for the better, at least that’s what his friends think. Many other reviewers have detailed more of the plot, I want to switch gears now and tell you about the characters and the writing.

Every single character left nothing to the imagination they were so well done. Each of them was complex and complete. I felt like I personally knew and was invested in every one of them. From Brian’s ticks, swearing and bad complexion to the brutal account executives roll playing during hell week, Ma, Jason, Soraya, Clyde and the rest of the cast. The writing is exquisite. I kept feverishly turning pages. The dialog written to express conversations in black slang was sensational, it puts the reader there. Even though I didn’t understand all the meanings, I eventually got most of it. Discrimination and reverse discrimination, it’s all here, in your face. It’s alive and well exactly as it’s written, no one can ignore it.

I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. Many reviewers have written about the books humor. Honestly, there is some funny, lighthearted dialog but I did not find this book humorous.

I won’t give away the end but I have to say it plain blew me away! This one definitely has huge WOW factor. I’d give it ten stars if I could and I’m usually pretty stingy with five. GET YOUR COPY!

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A timely and well written story of ambition, greed, and racism. Entertaining yet disturbing - and so well crafted I couldn’t put it down. The author somehow creates an ‘over the top’ plot that echoes with truth. I recommend this book highly.

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This is a very timely and relevant story about race relations and courage in the workplace. Mateo Askaripour has given us a page turner that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The main character, Darren, takes us on an emotional roller coaster as he defines what ambition really means. Darren as his alias "Buck" makes us care about characters we would not normally respect. There are some satirical moments which make you cringe, but overall, the story is highly enjoyable. Seeing the workplace through "Buck's" eyes gives you a real-life account of what truly goes on behind closed doors in the corporate world. This is one story you will remember long after the last page.

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour is The Wolf of Wall Street for salespeople. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you want to punch someone in the face, or it will inspire you to pick up the phone and call your prospects. Whatever your goal, the main reason why I chose this book is I wanted a subject that will teach me about sales written as a story instead of a self-help book. It is quite a unique writing style. You'll find reader-notes that the author wanted to spotlight. These are the vital lessons you need to highlight from the book and take with you once you are back in the jungle, wearing your vest, carrying your bow and arrow, and start hunting.

Whether we are aware of it or not, every one of us is a salesperson. We all became salespeople when we apply for jobs, credit cards, colleges, loans. We became salespeople when we are acquiring new friendships, pleasing our family, friends, colleagues, community, looking for romantic relationships, or for someone to marry. That is why it matters to learn these sales techniques because every day we are negotiating. Every day we are making a deal.

The author asked three things before I read the book: first is to keep an open mind. The second is that it is not for everybody. As the cliche goes, we can't please everybody. The third is to say an affirmation statement and clap my hands. Every day we are indeed negotiating without being mindful about it while the clapping helps bring up some positive vibes.

Reading the novel reminds me of worship that I attended in a huge stadium where the evangelist talks with such passion, eyes closed, hands raised in jubilance, shouting "In Jesus name. Amen." repeatedly. Except, this one happens in a war room on the 36th floor in 3 Park Avenue building (where the book's publisher is also holding office) in New York City.

Yes, I am a salesperson. The main reason why I appreciated how the author presented the book chapters by using sales terminologies such as prospecting, qualifying, discovery, demonstrations, and closing. The story of my life.

Ah yes, the "anatomy of a cold call"—intro, rapport, discovery, presentation, objection handling, qualification, and handoff. Sometimes it doesn't have to be in this order though each step is vital in filling up the funnel with qualified leads.

At first, I am disheartened at the protagonist's, Darren Vender a.k.a Buck, ambivalence when Rhett offered him a job. He is one of those people who will wait for the right opportunity to come instead of taking the bull by its horn and chasing his own dreams. Why do I not like this attitude that the character had initially in the story? That is because I do not have the luxury, the privilege, nor the trappings of success just like he had when someone had offered him a job owing to his sudden bout of courage. Just like him, I have the odds stacked against me except that he has someone offering him a job while I have to go after a job. I cannot afford to wait for someone to notice me. I have to find a way to get myself noticed. It takes double the effort to get where I need to be. One thing I know is for sure, with drive and persistence, I will get there. I will not think of myself as a victim of a system or institution which I have no control over. I will focus on the things I can control, like how I spend my time.

This book is for the underdogs. May it bring us enough inspiration and joy to reach our hopes and dreams in life.

"I had never let anyone speak like that to me before, and while I don't want to let it fly, I knew that it was all a part of the game that real men were judged by how much they could withstand." - Darren Vender

I want to express my profound appreciation to NetGalley, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and author Mateo Askaripour for providing a digital copy of this book that allows me to write an honest and unbiased review. Thank you for giving me a silver lining during this trying time. It's nice to be seen.

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Where do I even begin with this one! Mateo did a fantastic job with Black Buck. If you have ever had a job in sales, you will definitely relate. If you haven't, well... Still read it because you'll learn something along with being entertained in the process.
Mateo did an excellent job portraying what it is like for POC to work in a mostly white industry. I felt the emotions in his written word and I think you will too.
He gave us a little of everything we never thought we wanted. The truth! Characters we love, relationships we love and those we don't. Read this, I promise you won't be able to put it down.

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This book was incredible! it was original and heartfelt I thoroughly enjoyed it! Mateo Askaripour knocked it out of the park with this debut novel. This book hit on so many relevant topics such as systemic racism, white privilege and corporate greed. This book had me hooked from the beginning! The writing was smart, witty and honest. I will definitely be looking forward to more Mateo Askaripour novels in the future. I want to thank Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for an advanced copy of this book!

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Sharp, insightful, timely, relatable, thoughtful, funny. Read this book. I’m intentionally making this review short and sweet because I believe everyone should read it, and discover the reflections and insight found in the book themselves.

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