Grab a cup of coffee and settle in with this one! Peppered with humor and chock full of guidance on how to excel in sales and life, author Mateo Askaripour exposes what goes on in the workplace with Black Buck (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
He aims for his black and brown readers to feel seen and empowered when they relate to the characters; a worthy goal for a book that has already received some media attention, and is sure to reach a wide variety of readers thanks to its Read With Jenna’s January book club status. I loved this story, was entertained by the unique voice among many books I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed the structure that resembled a “how-to” guide to becoming a successful salesman.
A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
“Reader, one of the most important keys to success in sales is focus. Never let anyone or anything throw you off-track, especially people who seem to be born with it all.”
Black Buck is a form of metafiction. It is written by the main character, Darren, a young black man who lives with his mother in Brooklyn, has a girlfriend, and works at a Starbucks. One of the customers, a white executive named Rhett Daniels, is impressed with Darren’s convincing sales skills and hires him to work for Sumwun, a start-up tech company. Sumwun has fancy, Google-like offices, and the team leaders use the absurd acronym “SPEAK” and drastic psychological warfare to prepare the all-white sales force for customer interaction. The team gives Darren the nickname Buck, and as the only black person in the office, he experiences both overt and subtle forms of racism which he often deflects with humor. Using all his energy used to fit in and excel amongst this elite sales team, Darren/Buck loses a bit of himself and his connection to family and friends. As the token black man, the last thing he wants is to feel like “the other,” so he devises a way to racially balance out the workforce.
SMART, SLY, AND SO MUCH FUN
Black Buck is an extremely intelligent, fun-to-read story that forces you to think about the characters’ feelings and actions as well as the way society handles diversity, racism, and discrimination. I can’t help but take a hard look at how we treat each other. I sincerely hope this book gets into the hands of those who need a wake-up call. I experienced many laugh-out-loud moments; humor is in the nonsensical conference room names, the repeated comments mentioning the famous black men Buck supposedly looks like, and the frank sales tips throughout the book.
Mateo Askaripour is charming, quick-witted, open, honest, and personable in interviews. He grew up on Long Island, one of only a few black students in his classes as well as the only black student on the travel soccer team, and he spent a stint in sales at a tech start-up. These experiences inform who he is and impact how he looks at the world. With no formal training in writing and two failed manuscripts behind him, Askaripour has now risen to the top with Black Buck, a sharp racial satire with messages of recognition and empowerment to black and brown people. I highly recommend this book — it will spur on some great discussion. Bonus; if you have the opportunity to hear the author speak, don’t miss out!
Black Buck is available for purchase.
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