Review: Black Buck

“It’s the duty of every man and woman who has achieved some success in life to pass it on, because when we’re gone, what matters most isn’t what we were able to attain but who we were able to help.”

– Mateo Askaripour 

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour 
381 pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
Genre: Fiction
Re-readability: I might come back to this one. 
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed by: Indiana 

In this sharp-witted satire, Darren, a young Black man is drawn out of his comfortable life in Bed-stuy, and into the fast, furious and all-white world of Sumwun, a mysterious start-up company.

Darren is put through “hell week,” where he must survive blatantly racist hazing from co-workers and unnecessarily harsh, even cruel sales drills from his boss. Each co-worker seems to tell him he looks like a different Black celebrity and he is given the nickname “Buck.” With his new nickname comes a new identity and as he begins to succeed at work, mastering the art of selling, he begins to pull away from his girlfriend, best friend, neighbors, and mom, who is clearly very sick, though Darren is blind to it. Eventually, those ties are severed, and as he deals with a tragic loss, he gives himself over completely to his job and sees the company through a major crisis, and secures a strange second job with a major media mogul.

Later, he is drawn back to some of the people in his old life in Bed-Stuy, when his guilt about the past compels him to start teaching other young Black people how to sell anybody on just about anything. Readers are given an education too through sales tips that are peppered throughout the novel. 

This teaching effort, called Happy Campers, grows, evening becoming international. However, when a former Sumwun boss comes back into the picture, it puts the organization, and the students, in jeopardy. 

The conclusion of the novel is surprising, with the narrative twisting and turning all the way to the last page. An engaging, and at times enraging book, with a pace that hardly ever lets up. 

Has anyone else read this one? If so, did you feel like Darren was redeemed?

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