Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour is a sharp witted, satirical novel that is absolutely brilliant. Askaripour brings you into the story and slaps you over the head with a story coated in overt racism and white supremacy. Black Buck is full of metaphors and innuendos that drive the story home, including the meaning behind the title. Darren "Buck" Vender is an intelligent, young Black man who manages a Starbucks and does so quite well. One morning, a regular coffee patron offers him the deal of a lifetime. Darren accepts and his entire world is flipped upside down as he struggles to stay afloat in a sales role at a cult-like startup company. This book is pure satire, not in the "haha" way, but in the shake your head, roll your eyes, and let your chin hit the floor way.
I dare you to read this book and not cringe. It is literally impossible. The amount of overt racism that Darren/Buck faces when he starts the sales job at Sumwun is disgusting. Right off the bat, Darren is given a nickname with deep rooted racial ties: Buck. Clyde (he's absolutely horrendous and the epitome of a racist, white supremacist) gives him this nickname because of his previous job at Starbucks. The name "Black Buck" goes back centuries and is a racial slur for a Black man who won't bend to the will of a white man, or a Black man who is seen as violent, outspoken, and rude. In a way, this does describe Darren, as he makes his way in a predominately white corporate setting, being used as the token Black men. The elements of race and class when it comes to working the way up the corporate later was over the top, but also not far from reality.
Darren/Buck falls under the glamour of the cult-like start up and his boss with a God complex, Rhett. It was hard to read at times, as you rooted for his character so much, but end up hating him when he turns his back on his family, friends, and community. I loved the redeeming quality in Darren/Buck when he takes his mom's advice to help other people of color succeed. It is so true in life that success really means nothing, unless you uplift others. This book is an absolute rollercoaster and I was along for the ride. I could not put this one down and ended up falling asleep several nights in a row with my kindle in my hand, determined to find out what happened.
I felt like the authors intention was to drive the point home that racism and white supremacy is alive and well in, not only the world, but in the corporate world. Especially when it comes to white men succeeding in the corporate world, while BIPOC barely get a cut at the pie. Clyde's antics were so over the top disgusting, but it made me self reflect that what he was doing was no better than the microaggressions and unconscious bias that so many of us display towards BIPOC, especially Black people. To me, it seemed the author wanted to use satire to tell white people like myself that this hatred exists, we all contribute to it, and we need to do better. It is easy for white people to dismiss racism and pretend it doesn't exist because they don't witness or experience it. It is also easy for white people to believe they don't contribute to it, but just because your racism isn't on blast like it was in Black Buck, doesn't mean you are innocent from being part of the problem. That was a huge takeaway I got from this book.
I highly recommend this one! Brilliant, witty, and razor sharp, I could easily see Black Buck being made into a movie. For casting Clyde, may I suggest Eric Christian Olsen? For some reason, that is who I pictured when I wanted to throw my book at the wall after reading Clyde's racist behavior. And for Darren a.k.a. Buck, I pictured Michael B. Jordan. (See pic below) Though, I don't need much reason to picture Michael B. Jordan, if you catch my drift ;) And for Rhett, I pictured Henry Cavill.
Who would you cast if Black Buck was adapted to film?
Content Warnings: extreme racism, drug use, death of loved one
"My teeth are status quo and powerful, also known as white and straight."
"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."