Black Buck

Mateo Askaripour. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-0-358-38088-7
Askaripour eviscerates corporate culture in his funny, touching debut. Darren, a young Black man, lives with his mom in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood and manages a midtown Manhattan Starbucks. He’s content with his life and girlfriend, Soraya, but people tell him he could do more—he was valedictorian at Bronx Science, after all. Opportunity knocks when Darren persuades Rhett Daniels, the CEO of tech startup Sumwun and a Starbucks regular, to change his usual order. Rhett is impressed (his response: “Did you just try to reverse close me?”) and invites Darren to an interview, which leads to a sales job before he understands what the company actually does (it’s a platform for virtual therapy sessions). Darren makes good money, but struggles to keep up his commitments to his family and Soraya as Rhett pulls him into heavy after-hours partying. When an employee in China is charged with murder, Sumwun crashes, and so does Darren’s life. In an author’s note, Askaripour suggests the book is meant to serve as a manual for aspiring Black salesmen, and the device is thrillingly sustained throughout, with lacerating asides to the reader on matters of race. (“The key to any white person’s heart is the ability to shuck, jive, or freestyle. But use it wisely and sparingly.”) Darren, meanwhile, is alternately said by various white characters to resemble Malcolm X, Sidney Poitier, MLK, and Dave Chappelle, while he struggles to hold onto a sense of self, which the author conveys with a potent blend of heart and dramatic irony. Askaripour is always closing in this winning and layered bildungsroman. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 09/16/2020
Release date: 01/12/2021
Genre: Fiction
Book - 978-0-358-38064-1
Book - 978-0-358-44933-1
Compact Disc - 978-0-358-44897-6
Library Binding - 630 pages - 978-1-4328-8835-0
MP3 CD - 978-1-6647-8352-2
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