The title and cover of Black Buck are what initially drew me to this debut novel by Mateo Askaripour, as it pretty much plays on a number of levels.
What exactly is a Black Buck? Is it a black male deer, black money (in the spirit of keeping the spending power of Black people circulating within the Black community for longer before going into the wider economy) or a Black man?
Well this question was answered when it was revealed that the protagonist Darren was renamed Black Buck, after being approached when he was a barista, whilst working at a Manhattan Starbucks, by Rhett Daniels, the CEO of a start up tech company called Sunwun.
The satirical tale sees Darren navigate as the token Black employee at Sunwum, to become one of their most successful sales people and the journey that ensues.
As a Black person, you see Darren experience additional micro aggressions beyond the nickname given to him, eg being compared to other Black people his colleagues may be aware of. This is something I can relate to, as I have been likened to the famous Black female celebrity of the day when there is no resemblance whatsoever. I found the book relatable in this sense. In addition, the need to ‘code-switch’ is something else many Black people, whether in the US or the UK can relate to.
I was cheering for Darren to succeed, but due to the power structure he was navigating you will have to read it to see if it happens.
As a debut novel, I am definitely excited to see what Askaripour does next. Will he stick within the genre of satire or throw us a curve ball. One thing that I do hope though is that he continues on his mission to tell stories, because as he said “There’s nothing like a Black man on a mission.”.
***Thank you to Netgalley and John Murray for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.***
For the purpose of my reading challenges, Black Buck is a book about being woke or features a woke character for the Black Girls Read Too Challenge