Askaripour’s debut novel follows Darren Vender, a 22-year-old Brooklyn native and barista who takes a job at a startup sales company where he’s the only Black employee. A reviewer for Kirkus said the book “comes across like a brash, in-your-face sales pitch leavened with punchy, go-for-broke mother-wit.”
“Black Buck is raw and intimate—and a title I knew our book club readers needed to read as we begin this new year with a fresh start,” Hager said. “Mateo Askaripour’s voice is so fresh. The writing is so intimate. At moments, it’s satirical and funny and then at moments, it’s heartbreaking.”
Askaripour said that the book was partially inspired by his own career in sales.
“I was sort of at creative rock bottom,” he said. “It was that do-or-die mentality that allowed me to say, ‘Let me not shy away from the themes of my life that I had been avoiding about race, sales, startups, and things that were so close to my life for years, that I didn’t think I could effectively write about.’”
Hager’s Today show book club was launched in 2019 with Tara Conklin’s The Last Romanticsas its inaugural pick. Previous selections have included Linda Holmes’ Evvie Drake Starts Over, Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, and Elizabeth Wetmore’s Valentine.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.