Guest review written by Karen Ritch
Do you enjoy reading debut novels from new authors in the literary world? If so, an adult read that I would highly recommend adding to your list is Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour. This book has garnered lots of positive reviews, is considered a 2021 must-read, and has already made several prominent book club lists.
Black Buck is about a young, 22-year-old black man named Darren Vender who lives with his “Ma” in a brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. His circle is small and tight and includes his loving girlfriend, Soraya; neighborhood buddies, Wally Cat and Jason; a room renter, Mr. Rawlings; and his Starbuck co-workers Carlos, Brian, and Nicole. Life is good for Darren who follows a comfortable routine and is happily satisfied, yet as valedictorian of a prestigious high school, his family and friends think he could do much more than be a manager at a Park Avenue Starbucks, given the right opportunity. Enter Rhett Daniels, the charismatic CEO of the newest high-tech startup, Sumwun, who sees potential in Darren to be something greater, probably one of the best salespeople in the company. Darren quits his Starbucks job and begins his sales training under the racist maniac Director of Sales, Clyde who gives Darren the nickname “Buck.” Clyde subjects Darren, the only black man at Sumwun, to training that is cruel and racist but Darren endures to live up to Rhett’s expectations within the company. As Darren’s professional life appears to be soaring, his home life grows difficult, and his relationships with the people who love and care for him most become distant and fractured. Ultimately, Darren does come to a realization of what matters to him most and what he needs to do to make things right.
Classified as a satire, Askaripour’s writing is both witty and fresh yet vulnerable and gripping. I found myself laughing, saddened, shocked, and in suspense as I turned the pages, and was completely thrown for a loop at the end. Askaripour, who was a former Director of Sales in real life before becoming an author, introduces the book as a sales manual (divided into five main parts (prospecting, qualifying, discovery, demonstration, and close) with quotes that hint at what’s to come and words to stop and reflect upon, for example:
“The good and the great are only separated by the willingness to sacrifice.”
- Kareem Abdul Jabbar
One particular technique I thoroughly enjoyed while reading the book was the use of the performance convention of breaking the fourth wall. Askaripour used bolded asides to talk to the reader directly with sales tips, strategies, and comments not only about corporate business but more importantly on race, culture, class, and society.
“Reader: By this point, you should know nothing in life is free, especially freedom.” pg. 346
Black Buck is a riveting, powerful, and thought-provoking book that won’t disappoint. I could easily see this book made into a movie and hope it will be in the future. In the meantime, I look forward to more books from the talented Askaripour and encourage you to get yourself a copy of Black Buck. It will be worth it.
Book talk resources:
Book talk with family and friends with these Read with Jenna discussion questions.
Quiz yourself with this fun reading scavenger hunt.
Learn more about the author:
Karen Ritch is a Literacy Instructional Coach and Specialist in Austin, Texas. Learn more about Karen and her work here.