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Black Buck
by Mateo Askaripour




Overview -
Click Here for Book Club Discussion Questions!

A New York Times Bestseller
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick

"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.

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Overview

Click Here for Book Club Discussion Questions!

A New York Times Bestseller
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick

"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.

 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780358380887
  • ISBN-10: 035838088X
  • Publisher: Mariner Books
  • Publish Date: January 2021
  • Page Count: 400
  • Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds


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BookPage Reviews

Ascent of a salesman

After learning what it takes to make it in the corporate world, Mateo Askaripour spins that knowledge into gold in his riotous first novel.

“You’re likely in for a wild ride, and you will make mistakes,” says author Mateo Askaripour via Zoom from his home in Brooklyn, New York. “But as long as you learn from them and don’t judge yourself too harshly, you can retain a sense of self and still succeed.”

Askaripour’s comments reflect the central message of his debut novel, Black Buck, in which a young Black man named Darren attempts to navigate the punishingly racist corporate tech world without losing either himself or the love of his friends and family. With a complex yet accessible plot, rich characters and Askaripour’s sharp wit, Black Buck is a page-turning satirical examination of corporate racial struggle. And with its tips and tricks for achieving success in white-dominated spaces, the book also acts as an instruction manual for Black and brown corporate climbers.

“I wrote this book so that anyone who reads it, especially Black and brown people, would be able to take away a few gems on how to advance their own lives and the lives of those who they love.”

Askaripour’s professional life began in the same corporate tech world that he thoroughly deconstructs in his novel. The Long Island native was a prodigy of sorts, moving from intern to director of sales at a tech startup within a year. When he needed an outlet from the fast-paced and ruthless world of sales, he turned to the written word. His first two attempts at a novel fell short of the mark. Then in late 2017, he decided to write from experience.

“I realized that writing something that felt true to me meant that I couldn’t shy away from the things that were closest to me in my life,” he explains. Namely, sales, race and startups. In Black Buck, Darren’s quest to establish himself in sales causes internal and external turmoil. Forced assimilation, intrusive demands on his time and the stresses of racism create rifts in his relationships, self-identity and sense of control. There are moments when the reader struggles to determine whether Darren is a hero or a villain. That’s not a sign of any misstep on Askaripour’s part, though. Rather, it reflects the existential battle that Black and brown people face in these environments.

Black Buck book cover“There were times when I felt like I was mad powerful,” Askaripour says of his sales days. “I was 24 years old, managing 30 people and making over $100K. I had all these people looking up to me. In those moments, it’s so easy to forget that you’re Black. It was so easy to forget because you have some money and people are looking up to you. But then there were times when I’d hire a new person, a white man or woman, and I could tell that the first time I would ask them to do something or tell them to do something, they’d look at me strangely. Years later, I began to understand what those initial looks meant. They were saying, I gotta listen to a Black person? Especially this dude? Some of them never had to listen to a Black person in their life before, or even a person of color.”

As Darren climbs the corporate ladder, some of the racism he encounters is overt, while other forms are stealthily inscribed into the culture of the company. Reflecting both his empirical understanding of the problem and his writing talent, Askaripour does an incredible job of showing how companies often use Black culture as a source of inspiration and mobilization while at the same time generating an internal culture of intolerance for Black people.

“They have this cognitive dissonance where they will take Black culture and use it to energize and further their interests, but how many Black people do they know?” he says. “And how willing are they to sit back and ask themselves whether they are helping or hurting these people that they never really think about?”


ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our starred review of Black Buck.


Despite its grounding in racial strife, Black Buck is not a pessimistic novel at all. The African diasporic philosophy “each one, teach one” undergirds the book. Brought to America from West Africa, “each one, teach one” suggests that African Americans who have effectively navigated racial subjugation should guide and open doors for others in their community.

“I think we need to realize that until we’re in a position where Black and brown people are giving other Black and brown people those life-changing opportunities at such an exponential rate, there is going to be an obvious disparity, and there is going to be an imbalance. And that needs to change,” Askaripour says. “The ‘each one, teach one’ mentality is definitely a way to change that.”

For Askaripour, Black Buck is a form of service, an intentional attempt to positively affect the material circumstances of Black and brown people. “I wrote this book so that anyone who reads it, especially Black and brown people, would be able to take away a few gems on how to advance their own lives and the lives of those who they love,” he says. “It doubles as a sales manual for that very real reason. I feel hopeful that if someone reads this book and understands its journey, they would be able to better their lives and probably get an entry-level sales job. Yeah, man, ‘each one, teach one’ is not just essential to the book. It’s at the core of my life right now.”

 

Author photo by Andrew “FifthGod” Askaripour

 

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