Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour was one of those books that I kept seeing pop up across my Book of the Month groups. That, coupled with the brightly-colored coffee cup cover art, definitely piqued my interest. So when I got the opportunity to read and review this book via NetGalley, I was pumped.
I also felt reading this African American-authored book fit perfectly into my February reads in honor of Black History Month. If you’re looking to honor Black History Month in your February reads, here are a few of my African American-authored favorites:
- The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
- The Color Purple by Toni Morrison
- The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (not a favorite of mine, but a book I would recommend reading for the message)
Summary: Darren Vender is happy with his quaint life. He lives in Bed-Stuy, NYC with his loving mother, has a long-term girlfriend he’s crazy about, and is the boss-man at his long-tenured job at Starbucks. His world is turned upside down when he meets Rhett, a wealthy white businessman, who he serves coffee to several times a day. Rhett takes a chance on Darren, molding him into his protege at his rapidly-growing start-up. Darren quickly becomes “Buck,” the only black salesman at Rhett’s company. Buck is thrown into the wild world of sales, and soon his humble life and closest relationships will be threatened by his fast and furious new career.
My Review: I love well-written satire. Black Buck was funny and honest from the first chapter. The characters are authentic and felt so real to me, I felt like they were old friends. Askaripour’s writing is engaging and kept me hooked from start to finish. His descriptions and details are so on point that I could smell the various coffee blends Buck described. I also love the irony of the Starbucks manager hating coffee, but as his career spiraled, he started drinking it for necessity (I can relate these days). I also love the prose Askaripour uses: it gives the story genuine and relevant dialogue.
The only reason this was not a five star read for me was the turn the story took towards the end (no spoilers here). I understand where Askaripour was going with Buck’s set-up, but everything up until that point felt so realistic and plausible. This part lost me: it seemed like too far of a stretch. Yes, I know this type of thing happens. But the story was already going in such a great direction, I felt disappointed that this element had to be added to it. It muddled the message for me. I was certain that Buck ended up in the penthouse (again, no spoilers) for reasons related to Sumwun’s former business ethics or a set-up from the WUSS crowd. I did not expect that turn of events. I did, however, guess who the snitch was. Very well done.
I truly loved the Happy Campers element. It brought the question of diversity–both sides of the coin–to the forefront. I cringed at the WUSS movement. It made me so uncomfortable: everything about the movement was so blatantly racist that I couldn’t fathom it. For a few chapters, I felt ashamed to have the same color skin as those radical characters (that’s how you know an author is creating excellent fiction: when the way you feel and the lasting impression the story leaves on you don’t feel like fiction at all).
At one point, once Buck hit the peak of his success, I wondered what it was going to take to bring him back to his modest roots and ground him. I was so relieved to see him shed the “sales guy” attitude and become human again.
Conclusion: Black Buck was a 4.5 out of 5 stars for me. I truly enjoyed this read, and didn’t hit any dreaded lulls or wonder if I was going to finish it. I loved the characters, cringed at Buck’s missteps in his personal life, and cheered for him as he found his way back to humanity. I definitely recommend reading this book.