Black Buck

400 pages

English language

Published Jan. 6, 2021 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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4 stars (2 reviews)

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 …

3 editions

The first half is better

3 stars

The satire I've read and enjoyed centered around one particular theme throughout the whole book. The first half of this book, I'd say, chapters 1 through 19, do this very well. It is a great commentary about a smart Black man losing his way while trying to work in white America.

The second half of the book was not so gripping, partly because it seemed as though the absurdity didn't have a central theme that carried the wacky jokes. It's as if the book wanted to become 2 books in one. Perhaps it was trying to show that, for Black lives, nothing is as it seems, but I feel this could have been conveyed while sticking to a centered plot.

The jokes poke fun at how whites view Black lives, but the second half of the book didn't hold my interest nearly as strongly as the first half of this …

A bitterly funny depiction of racism in white corporate America

5 stars

This is a satirical novel about race and America, using tech companies but specifically the sales side as as its lens. If I had to be cute about it I would say it's like Sorry to Bother You meets American Psycho.

It's genuinely funny and thought-provoking in parts, and made me cringe (in a bad way) in others. I think the author's pen is its sharpest when he's depicting startup life and its intersections with race. I've been the only non-white person in the room in many, many startup meetings and offices. Askaripour doesn't quite push things into the magical realist sci fi of Sorry to Bother You -- instead he takes things right up to the edge of absurdity, but not over it. Ultimately all the racism he depicts from the well-meaning and clueless to the consciously vindictive is stuff that I've witnessed first-hand. I have been in …