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Friday, January 29, 2021

Review: Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck 
by Mateo Askaripour
Narrated by Zeno Robinson

Thanks to & HMH Audio for the ALC and NetGalley
& Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: January 5, 2021
Audiobook: 11 hours 12 minutes
400 Pages
Genres: Contemporary

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.

My Review:

“My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight...”

Welcome to Darren's world.  A young man working at Starbucks who convinced a guy to change his drink, which in turn changed Darren's life.  This satire is part memoir (of the fictional character), part self-help, part madness.  Darren enters into the start up company, Sumwun, and learns to be the sales man of all sales men.  As the only Black man within the company, he not only gets hazed the most, but he's also used to help Sumwun get out of some trouble when things go awry.  The book touches on racism, the start up/corporate toxic culture, ambition and how money and power can inexplicably change a person.

“And it’s the potential for failure, more than failure itself, that stops so many people from beginning anything. Back then, I was no different.”

I was rooting for Darren until he turned into a pompous ass.  Then I rooted for him again when he decides to use his skills to help other minorities get the chance that he was given and in which he has excelled (but at what cost). And then I was mad again and how he treated them.  But I also cringed at the way Darren was treated and applauded when he proved himself over and over.

I did feel myself losing interest toward the last end of the novel and was happy I decided to listen to this after hearing how amazing the narrator is and Zeno Robinson KILLS it.  I also think that maybe satirical reads aren't really my thing, but I do appreciate how well Askaripour brings Darren to life. 

"Every day is deals day, baby."


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