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Publisher's Summary

"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 start-up where nothing is as it seems.

There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.

An unambitious 22-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 start-up, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the 36th 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.

©2021 Mateo Askaripour (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

Editor's Pick

A strong debut
I have never read or listened to fewer books than I did in 2020. My ability to focus on anything other than what was happening in the world was pretty nonexistent. But in 2021, I’m making it a point to get back to my old ways. I needed a story that was going to excite me and remind me what I love about fiction, so when I came across Black Buck, I had high hopes and expectations—both of which were fully exceeded. Mateo Askaripour’s debut novel about a young black man in New York climbing to the top of this very shady, cult-ish start up is exactly what I needed. This story—which is narrated perfectly by Zeno Robinson—is a satirical look at race and capitalism that could not have come at a better time. This is the perfect novel to start your year off with. —Aaron S., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Black Buck

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A struggle to finish

This novel was one of the hardest for me to get through in years (I only finished because I had to for a book club discussion), and I’ve read some pretty terrible stuff this year (cough*The Knife of Never Letting Go*cough).

Spoiler warnings, this review will be going through several plot points and character arcs.

I’d like to change the genre of this novel to High Fantasy. Not because of the race issues depicted here (though I will touch on those), but because of the corporate culture described. While a retelling of The Wolf on Wall Street with a black protagonist sounds like a good idea, someone else should have written it. If you’re looking for something similar but actually well written, I’d highly recommend Black No More (1931) by George Schuyler.

I work in the corporate world in NYC. The world Askaripour created was far from corporate NYC. If this novel read as satire, maybe it would work, but satire depends on humor and this novel very much lacks any. In fact, there is so much sincerity in this novel (by the author, not just the protagonist) that I find it hard to believe this was written as satire at all. It feels like that claim was added once everyone realized how unrealistic the plot was.

The first offense was in the first few pages when Askaripour tells white people they are honorary black people for reading Black Buck, attempting to protect white fragility by sweeping history and responsibility under the rug. The novel then seems to believe it is forcing the reader to confront race issues. You can’t have both: you can’t give white people permission to pretend like they can relate to being black and ignore their own white guilt, while simultaneously pretending like you’re illustrating the black plight for them (if you’ve seen Doll Face, Black Buck deals with race like Doll Face dealt with feminism - talking about these issues from a place that we should be far past by now (but at least Doll Face was funny). Both pieces of media depict the issues at face value without much deep digging, which is inexcusable for Black Buck years after popular shows/movies like Watchmen, Get Out, and Luke Cage. If you’re white and you want to learn about racism and blackness in America, watch one of those).

All the characters in this novel are horribly two dimensional, yet the protagonist is absolutely the worst. Black Buck is filled with life/sales lessons preached by Buck, yet he does absolutely nothing to deserve the role as expert or teacher. The character arc and plot of The Wolf on Wall Street takes more than a decade to evolve, yet somehow Buck can do all of it and more in less than six months. There’s a lot of need to suspend disbelief in this novel, but by far the largest ask is to accept that one week of training at a sales start-up makes this protagonist Jordan Belfort (skipping over the fact that he got the job by upselling a Starbucks coffee. By this logic, NYC should be teaming with expert sales people at all coffee, comic, and vape shops). And his lessons are complete nonsense. He tricks his students (who, if they’re as smart as the author wants us to believe, should really see Buck’s transparent deceptions at this point) into eating at an expensive restaurant and their last sales lesson was to… not pay for the meal. Not only does this make no sense, but the students don’t even succeed! What’s the point of the lesson if failing is totally acceptable?

I feel the most badly for Soraya. We’re introduced to her as a young woman excited to start nursing school. Three quarters of the way through the novel however, she tosses that dream as if it were nothing all because her ex-boyfriend became rich and turned into an “jerk” (did he? He started drinking and accidentally missed a family dinner one night - if that makes you an asshole, then I think all young twenty year olds are in serious trouble). This character was already depicted as barely something more than the protagonist’s sex toy, and then she threw out college and a career because HE did something unrelated to her dreams? It makes no sense beyond making her life completely dependent on her boyfriend.

There are deaths and betrayal in this novel, yet all of them feel so inconsequential and undeserved. Nothing in this novel is earned. It’s honestly lazy writing. The story is supposed to be bigger than life (NYC, corporate culture, racism, etc) yet there’s only a few people involved and they run into each other at every turn. Again, you can’t have both.

If you’re looking for media about being black in America, there are a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, Black Buck is a buck short. It’s a loud and angry story told by an inexperienced protagonist, who in the end tells us nothing we shouldn’t already know.

64 people found this helpful

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Beware of "F" bombs.

Good story line, but loaded with unnecessary profanity. Buck character is likeable. Timely social commentary.

28 people found this helpful

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Night happy with the evolution of the characters

I kept waiting for more ethical and empathetic growth of characters. The lead character's self reflections seemed shallow and to always fall short of any true remorse or depth. When he did recognize his own shortcomings or behavioral problems, it didn't engender sympathy because he didn't change much or do enough to counter. Not much self-accountability. Lots of deflecting. I was a little disappointed in him in the end.

23 people found this helpful

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Good story, but narration was annoying

This is a really good book - very interesting content and pretty clever satire. However, the narrator screams a lot. This doesn’t add to the book, and it was very abrasive and annoying.

12 people found this helpful

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Good Start But Loses Steam and Credibility

Darren, a 22-year old with a beautiful girlfriend, loving mother and a job he enjoys lives in his own apartment in his mom’s brownstone enjoying the proximity and his independence. Some would say the former high school valedictorian who didn’t go to college is an underachiever and is wasting his talents because, for the last 4 years, he’s been content to work at Starbucks as a “masterful” supervisory barista. But Darren is happy and loves his life and says he’s waiting for the RIGHT opportunity to come along. That opportunity arrives when a customer notices Darren’s potential and hires him as a salesman for a virtual therapy company. In spite of racially insensitive hazing, Darren soon becomes a success. But at what cost? As he drinks the company Kool-aid, Darren’s friends and family see him change in frightening and disappointing ways. Darren doesn’t see it that way.

This book is satire illustrating in an exaggerated way the type of workplace racism black people face. Darren compartmentalizes it and views it as part of the landscape he must navigate to prove that he can compete, win, and get what he wants. The book includes outrageous micro-agressions. His mentor nicknames him “Buck,” both because he’s a former Starbucks employee and because he knows Darren will make a million bucks. But we all are familiar with the “black buck” stereotype ladled onto African American men. Also, in his all white environment, Darren is told by almost every white person he meets that he reminds them of some famous black person — from MLK Jr to Sidney Poitier to Morgan Freeman. Now, we ALL know those men don’t look anything alike.

After Buck proves himself to be a team player and top notch salesman and 'saves the day' for the company, he's off reluctantly to new entrepreneurial challenges. This is where the narrative gets less interesting and what transpires in the second half of the book goes off the rails.

Nonetheless, Black Buck is an interesting, funny, and at times sad coming of age story that raises many questions. What price will you pay for success? Is upward mobility really “upward” in a spiritual and moral sense?I give it 3 stars mainly because the second half is not as good as the first. The narrator, however, is great throughout. His voice exudes the crux of Darren: his enthusiasm, his awareness, anxiety, stress, triumphs and devastation.

11 people found this helpful

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Best narration - what a performance

Deeply layered characters in an unexpected, sometimes unsettling story. Buck with his sales charm and decisions, good and bad. Ring ring.
This is the best narration of an audio book I've heard.

9 people found this helpful

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Do not pass the “buck”

I was skeptical about this book at first because the last book that was recommended was so dull and boring that I could barely get through it. However, this book was so good and engaging that it took no time at all to finish it. And I’ve already shared it with several other people including a company I used to work for as a book on diversity for managers to read! Excellent book!

9 people found this helpful

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Black Buck is Alive

Was looking forward to something new to read. This was on my wish list. Wow. Finished it in 2 days. The narrator made the story easy to follow. Was entertaining and exciting. Totally recommend this to anyone looking for a light, easy, fun read

8 people found this helpful

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So good!

This book gave me all the feels! It would make a great book club book and discussion. It would even be great for corporate book clubs. It’s a novel but it could so be an autobiography.

6 people found this helpful

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Terrifyingly Good

I’ve LOVED every second of this s**t. It’s wild, scary, real, funny, and triggering all at once, chile.

Movie adaptations are rarely able to live up to the hype but I’d still watch it if it comes!

6 people found this helpful