Ambition and Race are Explored in Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

My Review

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 and wants those black and brown readers who relate to the characters in Black Buck to feel seen and empowered. A worthy goal for a book that has already receiving some media attention, and sure to reach a wide variety of readers, as it is Read With Jenna’s January book club choice. I loved this story, was entertained by the unique voice that has not often appeared in many books I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed the structure that resembled a “how to” guide to being a successful salesman.

READER: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT KEYS TO SUCCESS IN SALES IS FOCUS. NEVER LET ANYTHING OR ANYONE THROW YOUR 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 a job working at Starbuck’s. One of the coffee 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 uses 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 overt and subtle forms of racism, often deflecting with humor. With all his energy used toward fitting in and excelling amongst this elite sales team, Darren/Buck loses a bit of himself and his connections to family and friends. As the token black man, he does not want to feel like “the other” so he devises a way to racially balance out the workforce.

Black Buck is an extremely intelligent, fun to read story that forces you to think about the characters, their feelings and actions, and how society handles diversity, racism and discrimination. I can’t help but take a hard look at how we treat each other and 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 details… the nonsensical conference room names, the repeated comments mentioning 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 in Long Island and was one of only a few black students in his classes as well as the only black student on the travel soccer team. He also worked for a time at a tech start up in sales, and all of these experiences inform who he is and impact how he looks at the world. With no formal training in writing and two failed manuscripts, Askaripour has risen to the top with Black Buck, this sharp racial satire with his message of recognition and empowerment to black and brown people. I highly recommend this book – it will spur on great discussion! And if you have the opportunity to see him speak, don’t miss out!

About the Author

MATEO ASKARIPOUR was a 2018 Rhode Island Writers Colony writer-in-residence, and his writing has appeared in EntrepreneurLit HubCatapultThe RumpusMedium, and elsewhere. He lives in Brooklyn, and his favorite pastimes include bingeing music videos and movie trailers, drinking yerba mate, and dancing in his apartment. BLACK BUCK is his debut novel. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @AskMateo. You can also subscribe to his monthly newsletter here. 

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