Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck is a satirical take on ambition, race, and the world of sales, as a Black Starbucks employee sudden finds himself offered a job at a tech startup. Darren lives in Brooklyn with his mother, who hopes he can find something to do beyond making coffee for a living (and he doesn’t even like coffee). When the CEO of a new tech startup offers Darren a chance to work there instead of at Starbucks, he warily agrees, and even makes it through the ‘hell week’ of training. To be a salesman, though, he becomes ‘Buck’, someone his family and girlfriend no longer recognise, and soon everything becomes larger than just Buck, expanding to help more people of colour become part of the sales workforce.

Written as if it is a self-help memoir from Buck, with tips about sales breaking out of the main narrative, this is a distinctive novel that takes a biting look not only at working in sales, but at how people change due to ambition and also how white people react to organisations excluding them to support people of colour. The combined absurdity and energy of the novel sweeps you along, with time jumps every so often to move the narrative forward, and it is a gripping look at somebody who forgets to think about the consequences of their actions whilst also dealing with the racism and microaggressions of white coworkers. The narrative often veers into ridiculous directions and the characters can be extreme, but you expect that from the genre and satirical tone: you’re meant to wince at the dark comedy and the fact bad things happen to characters, all part of the whirlwind plot.

People looking for realism or gritty novels perhaps won’t like this one, but anyone who enjoys sharp exposés of particular professions and worlds will enjoy Black Buck, a book which challenges ideas about race and success (there’s a great moment about ‘race’ being something people don’t want to hear about, but then ‘diversity’ being something they do).