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Book Review: “Black Buck”

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Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
Literary Fiction
400 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Racism, the ‘R’ word, the ‘N’ word, violence, workplace related harassment and racism

Synopsis:

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.

From GoodReads

Review:

Ya’ll. This BOOK! It was all over Instagram, and I initially bought it for a read-a-thon I participated in in January that required I read a book published in January 2021. Although I didn’t get to read it until February, I think it was the perfect book for Black History Month.

This book was incredibly well written. I immediately cared about Darren/Buck and his journey, and felt angry when he experienced the overt racism of his coworkers. I saw how the system was stacked against him, and how he was tokenized, and I was immediately mad about it.

Humor is an iffy thing for me. I have a very specific type of humor that can be summed up in two words: John Mulaney. I knew going in that this was satire, but I felt uncomfortable at many of the jokes while reading it, which is why I think it’s crucial that everyone reads this book, or at least more books that push them beyond their comfort zone.

But the shining moment was the ending. As I’ve said in previous reviews, endings can make or break a book for me. Give me an over the top proposal in a romance novel, and I’m yours. This was not a Happy Ending. It was a Enraging Ending. But my goodness, everything that happened in the last few chapters was absolutely incredibly well done. My mom tried to talk to me while I was reading the last few pages, and I yelled at her because I was so engrossed. It was heartbreaking, and unjust, and absolutely mind-blowing. I will never forget the roller coaster of emotions that the ending of this book sent me on.

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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