Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Black Buck: A Novel

Black Buck: A Novel by Mateo Askaripour

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve read and bookmarked a couple of bookstagrammers’ thoughts about this debut novel from Mateo Askaripour. I have thoroughly enjoyed their takes on how they have felt about this book [See their posts: @readingwithglamour and @_britt_lit] I also read articles and interviews about this book with the author to get his take on how his novel is looked at in the world, and who this book is meant to be read by.

I almost wrote an alternative review to really express how I felt, but I think that type of review would come across as polarizing and I don’t want to give that impression that it’s an ‘us vs them’ type of reaction. However, this does deserve some sort of “Black only” review and a politically correct (PC) review, I just don’t know if I’m the person to give that type of perspective.

With all that being said, I will say this… this book will take you to many places emotionally. As a Black person, this book angered me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me second guess some sh*t in my life, make me wish a mf would, made me disassociate with some problematic white people, made me cheer, boo, and say ‘hell yea,’ on more than one occasion. This book comes at you hard and fast, and will break walls (literally breaks the 4th wall) while reading this debut novel.

The author states that this book is written to Black people for Black people, and that if a white person is reading this book, to consider themselves an honorary Black person. Hmmm…. yea, that threw me too. Which made me think, “is this book satire??” There is a lot of commentary regarding the “satire” categorization of Black Buck. An interview I read stated these words: “Askaripour wields a sharp satirical blade to deliver social commentary.” Who said? Did Mateo say that?? No. Mateo said that “the humor in the book is meant to be an inside joke to Black people” and that if he had white people in mind while writing this he wouldn’t have written it. He also states that he didn’t set out to write satire. So why are people calling this book satire?? Even the interviewer in the article I read continuously referred to this book as satire that could double as a self-help book. Multiple sources continue to put this book in the satire column as if to make this book palatable or even comical. THIS BOOK IS NOT SATIRE!!!

In my opinion, what this book does is squarely look into the faces of non-Black people and show them how they look and treat Black folk when they try to “save us from ourselves.” When they treat us as commodities or pets or special projects/experiments that are handled with a certain type of care. This book breaks open a huge hole… spying into the world of those who are the only Black in spaces. How whiteness constantly tries to shrink us to fit their narratives a bit easier. To shorten our names, or even rename us for their pleasure and comfort. How some white people try to direct our lives to “help us” cause they think we need it. We also see the direct result of Black people who get caught up in a world where white attention sucks us dry and makes us do things that puts us into the “not all skinfolk is kinfolk” box. The person I thought of the most in this situation was AG Daniel Cameron. He got duped into thinking that the white people in his circle, would actually help him. He is the actual Black Buck who got tricked into turning his back on his own community. Who lives for the attention and gaze of the whites to get ahead and trample on the Black folk who put him there to begin with. He gets no sympathy from me, just like Darren got no sympathy from me by the end of the book.

The author also stated that he intended for this book to be a guide for Black people who wanted to be successful in sales. He wanted Black people to be able to pick up tips and pointers on how to really get good in this world of sales. He also wanted to warn Black people about the dangers of getting caught up in the power that can suck all the humanity out of a person when they rise to the top, especially in startup companies. Mateo takes extraordinary care in describing how this culture can destroy everything around you if you let it. I really appreciated how he showed the dangers of what could potentially happen when you let that power get to your head, and the dynamics of his relationships that were affected.

This book is not absurd, to be honest. As much ridiculousness that goes on in here, it’s not absurd. This stuff does happen to Black people on a daily basis. Being the only Black person puts you in a position that is hard and unique. It is important to constantly remind yourself of who you are, just like the old gargoyles on the street that constantly reminded Darren of who he was and where he came from. At the end of the day, as a Black person, you will always be Black. What that means is that you can’t trust the system cause the system wasn’t designed with us in mind. It was designed to keep us out. The minute they don’t need you, you are out in the cold alone with no help. Having to tuck tail and run back to where you came from, all to be slapped in the face by the same people who look like you, and become ostracized.

Black Buck was hard to read sometimes. It can be seen as polarizing. Divisive. Ridiculous. Absurd. Controversial. Movies that came to mind were: Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, Death of a Salesman, Pursuit of Happyness, etc.

I bounced around the spectrum of feelings with this book. I hated it. Loved it. Was aggravated. Was sad. Was happy. Was furious. Was inspired. Was sympathetic. Was apathetic. The list could go on. For every positive reaction, there was a negative reaction right around the corner waiting for me. I hated the name ‘Buck’ for Darren. I hated that he even accepted this and made it apart of his character. I hated that he wanted to be Buck, and that he embodied this persona even though it hurt everything in his life. I hated that he was hated. Yet, I didn’t care what happened to him at the end. He deserved that sh*t!

My words are all a jumble, but if you read this book, you might understand why I feel the way I do. especially if you are Black and have ever been caught in spaces as ‘the only.’ This book spins diversity, sales, accountability, success, inclusiveness, exclusiveness, opportunities, capitalism, racism, and hard work into a new perspective. Mateo Askaripour, what in the world is going on in your brain? I can’t wait to see what you have next in store. Congrats on raising hell and killing us with your words. I hated to like this, and liked to hate it. You fucked me up. 4 stars.

Sidenote: Zeno Robinson made this audiobook a great experience. I would highly recommend listening to this book. His girl voices ain’t that great, but he did a fantastic job!

Thank you to Libro.FM (, Mateo Askaripour, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this book in exchange for a fair and honest opinion.

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The Conductors by Nicole Glover

The Conductors

The Conductors by Nicole Glover

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Conductors is a historical fantasy/murder mystery, set in post-Civil War Philadelphia. A husband and wife team (Benjy and Hetty Rhoades) were previous Underground railroad conductors, and now that slavery has been abolished, they help people find missing relatives, solve mysteries and even murder.

However, there is an undercurrent of magic running through everything, where both Black and white people have access to certain magical abilities, but even the magic using is only allowed in certain circumstances, and white and Black people use the magic system differently. There are periodic flashbacks that allow the reader to see some of the backstory, but the glances are brief, but it gives you some insight on what’s currently going on in the story.

This first installment is about murder and magic, and you find out that someone has died, and Benjy and Hetty are put into a position to investigate. While they are investigating a murder, all sorts of secrets, and mysteries materialize and they realize there may be danger lurking out there for them as well.

To be honest, I’ve come to realize that magical realism doesn’t work well for me in the historical slave setting. I don’t like the idea of anyone putting enslaved Black people into situations where they have to use magic in order to be safe. Black people have done some miraculous things during slavery, and even til this day, but it’s not magic. It’s real! I feel like when Black people have to be magical, the ability for other non-Black people to see them as human is diminished. But that’s just my opinion. I felt like this book was a retelling of a kind of spin off of the magical realism of Harriet Tubman in The Water Dancer. (Don’t ask how I went there, but I did, and that magical realism with Harriet Tubman in The Water Dancer still irritates my soul) The pacing of the book was slow, and confusing, and all over the place. The magic system isn’t really explained well in the book. About 19% in, you get some sort of explanation, but it doesn’t really explain the how/why/where/what questions a reader may have about how the system works, especially for fantasy books. Who is allowed to use it? Where did it come from? Why is it being used? Why do Black people have different magic than whites? What are all the different kinds of magic that work in this world? What’s the significance of the magic that is used via wands, hand-drawn, chanted, brewed, etc.? So many questions that go unanswered about the magic system that it really put a hinderance on how I processed/comprehended what I was reading.

Hetty and Benjy, who are the main characters, also have this awkward marriage situationship going on. The way the author writes about their relationship is really aggravating to me personally; although I can see how maybe this could happen in real life, but I think it could have been done better.

As far as the mystery and murder and investigations start to happen, the book picks up from there, but it’s more than half way through at that point. There are quite a few excessive explanations, that have nothing to do with the magic system or advancing the plot forward, and there is unnecessary scenes and so many characters, that made this book a lot longer than needed.

The author does attempt to discuss quite a few topics in this story, but it’s only done to the detriment of the plot, in my opinion.
– Micro/macroaggressions with white people
– Friendships with women
– Class/elitism among Blacks
– Social standing

The story just doesn’t come together for me, and I’m left feeling like it’s disjointed or disorganized or dis-something. It’s just not cohesive enough. The magic system not being explained, is a big downfall to this book. For fantasy genres, this is “where the money resides.” World building, plot development, character development, magic systems, and problem solving are the major areas that should be done with exceptional care, and I don’t think this book hit the mark for me on those areas. I really wanted to love this book, as the plot is a bit unique, but I don’t see myself looking toward the next installment, as the ending doesn’t really feel like a part 2 is around the corner. I am disappointed, and probably gave this more expectation than needed in this debut novel because historical fantasy with Black protagonists is one of my up and coming favorite genres, but this was a 3/3.5 for me.

Thank you to Net Galley, Nicole Glover and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Promised Land

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Deeply introspective. This first volume of the President’s memoir is absolutely riveting.

I have never read a post-presidential memoir before. To be honest, I wasn’t and haven’t been that interested in politics until President Barack Obama started running for presidency. I think many African Americans my age (millennial generation) that I knew while growing up were not really concerned about politics because we didn’t see ourselves there. There was no real representation, and our thoughts about how Black Americans are treated in the US, further confirmed how less interested we were about politics that wouldn’t change in our favor. However, in 2007 when I learned about Barack Obama running for president, I became super excited and wanted to learn more about politics and who was running for office on the city, state, and federal level. Although our past has been silent in the White House, I started to have hope that we might actually have our first African American president, and that meant the world to me.

I understand that every president is a flawed human being, and that the highest level of office does not mean that every decision will be correct and well thought out and planned to military precision. However, the person who is in the office should have respect for the office. The elected official should respect the people they govern. The person who is the “adult in the room,” should be able to make snap decisions, have quick thinking, be intelligent, savvy, level-headed, and listen to the experts.

I can even understand the frustration many Black Americans and other POC may have had with him and his seemingly lack of response to the ever pressing ask of “can you help a brutha out?” However, we have to step back and take into consideration the deep rooted systemic racist institutions and the good ol’ boys’ influence in politics. One Black man is NOT going to erase HUNDREDS of YEARS of mistreatment and racial disparity that minorities have had for literal centuries. However, Barack was there to do a job, and he wanted to do well. He’s obviously not superhuman, he is Black, and he is the first, and he was met with unprecedented “cock-blocking” from Mitch McConnell. Although the 8 years he was in office wasn’t perfect, and had room for improvement, Barack Obama gave inspiration to so many, rescued so many people from unemployment and lack of healthcare, held hands, kissed babies, and even met the Queen. He raised the bar considerably high, and we hope to see another president of his caliber in office.

This post-presidential memoir focuses heavily on the trajectory that brought Barack Obama into the Oval office as our 44th president of these United States, and his decisions during some of the most important times of our lives, during the years 2008 through 2016.

Barack Obama takes us through the early years of him growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia with his mother, grandparents, and younger sister, and the absence of his father. We learn how he met Michelle, and his graduate school and law school endeavors. We see the decision making that went behind the Senate race and then the eventual Presidential race.

Barack discusses his decisions regarding the financial crisis, his G20 Summit, and how they were formed and decided in great detail. This part of the book was pretty dense and would make great reading material for the history, financial and political science buffs, but for the average recreational reader, it was pretty thick to navigate through.

However, Barack Obama is Ivy-league educated. He should write well and speak well, and be intelligent, as any lawyer should be, and not just because he’s Black, but because he’s worked his butt off to deserve every accolade he’s afforded.

Regardless if you voted for Barack Obama or not, the caliber of his administration speaks volumes about the type of man he is, and how he led America for 8 years. America didn’t deserve him. I am so fortunate that my children were raised knowing first off that a Black person can be president of the United States.

Barack Obama is truly inspiring. From the way he drafts and writes speeches, his books that have been published, to the way he celebrates and loves on Michelle and their daughters, Barack Obama is one of a kind. I thoroughly enjoyed this portion of his memoir, and I can’t wait to finish his story. Overall rated 4. *very dense in parts and hard to digest the many facts and dealings he had both domestically and internationally. A history and economics buff may definitely enjoy those parts.

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Boss Rules by Sharaka M. Leonard

Boss Rules: The First 25 Steps To Inspire You Forward

Boss Rules: The First 25 Steps To Inspire You Forward by Sharaka M. Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great entry-level self-help guide to set you up for success as a “boss.”

Sharaka Leonard has written a book for those who have the entrepreneurial spirit but need a few rules or steps to help them stay on the right path. This book details 25 rules that every business owner/leader should follow to ensure you are stepping forward into success and how to create your own plan for implementation.

Leonard sprinkles in her own experiences along with a narrative and a how-to in every rule to make sure you are successful in accomplishing whatever goal you have set for your business/career. A very easy and short read, this book will allow you to start your plan right away and give you a mindset that will gear you towards rooting for yourself first and helping you obtain that self-confidence you need to step out on faith.

Some of the rules I really connected with are:
#7 – Be Willing to Move Ahead Alone Everybody’s Not Built for Beginnings
#10 – Be Ready, Stay Ready, and Move with Intent
#12 – Everyone can teach you something
#24 – Be Your Own Cheerleader

Starting a small business is a big step. You want to make sure you have all your ducks in a row, and that you have resources that you can count on to ensure your success. Not everything is going to work out, and you have to have a plan. This book gives you those steps to get your mindset in check so that you can move forward with a plan.

The book also has an interactive section where you can write down goals, set 3-5 year goals, and do a pulse check. Boss Rules will definitely help the new business owner set themselves up on the right path.

Thank you to the author Sharaka Leonard and S.H.E. Publishing for this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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silence is a sense by layla alammar

Silence Is a Sense

Silence Is a Sense by Layla AlAmmar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Breathtaking. Riveting. Thought provoking. Loud.

Silence is a Sense, is a deeply emotional, heartbreaking story of a young woman who has fled her war-torn country of Aleppo in Syria, for safety and security in the UK. She finds herself writing columns for a magazine, sharing her perspective as a refugee asylum seeker, and spending time in her apartment watching the windows of the neighbors that surround her. Deeply traumatized and suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, she becomes mute during her journey of escaping death. Her editor, Josie, is prodding her to reveal more and more of herself in her writing, and policing her memories to get better stories/articles out of her to capture more readers.

As she tries to make a safe place for herself in this new neighborhood, she finds herself becoming more and more involved in the community despite her attempts at separating herself from the others. When a terrible racist incident happens at the nearby mosque, we see the young woman struggling to decide if she wants to continue being anonymous or if she is going to stand up and do the right thing after witnessing something happen.

Going by a pseudonym, The Voiceless, we see her push the boundaries of her self-prescribed safety limits. She realizes with such clarity that no where is safe. Not even the place you thought was safe, and being silent has its consequences as well.

This book is so multi-layered and made me ponder on my military experience. As a military service member, deployed to Iraq, during the invasion of the Middle East, my mind went back to those days in which we were occupying their country. How the military’s presence affected the people who lived there, and how the military just came in and wrecked havoc in people’s lives. Made me wonder and cogitate on the aftermath and affects that the war had on all parties involved. The author talks about all sorts of pain, trauma, and death, the book is so multi-faceted that my senses are so overwhelmed.

There is also a huge chunk of how The Voiceless, describes her working relationship with her editor and the magazine she writes for. The author is also making another bold statement of how corporations, newspapers, magazines, and social media try to profit off of the pain of the refugees and stories about their lives and journey as asylum seekers. How, people in these positions try to paint pictures, fabricate clean stories, mold memories, or even dismiss someone’s experiences in ways that take away or undermine someone’s tragic life, as if it’s not believable or its fiction.

This book has topics on:
– Islamaphobia
– Xenophobia
– Oppression
– Violence
– Religion
– Politics
– Trauma
– Mental health
– Corporations making money off of refugee stories/refugee porn

What made this a 4.5 for me, is that the author doesn’t really disclose explicitly why or when the young woman left her country. Although we know a war was happening, we don’t get to see the moments in which she made her mind to flee. Her silence and how it developed is also something that is described in an abstract way (in my opinion), and the reader is left to interpret, ponder, wonder what’s really going on with her being mute. Overall, this book is heavy and intense, and thought-provoking. The author is so loud in the messaging in this book; refugees are people who deserve fair and equal treatment no matter where they come from. These people had lives, goals, and careers, and families before they were torn from their lives as they knew it due to war, famine, death, and now fight on a daily basis to just fit in somewhere and be safe. But alas, no where is safe.

Thank you to Algonquin Books and the author Layla Alammar for providing me with this book and the opportunity to share my thoughts during the Blog Tour, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Life is a series of false hopes. We all have misplaced hopes until we learn better.”

The quote above I believe is the overarching premise of this book. “…until we learn better.” So many characters learned better in this book. However, they first had to go through many misplaced hopes and dreams, as we all do as people.

An epic fantasy, set in a secondary world, influenced by Pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas, this novel will sweep you off your feet.

“You may study the stars, but I am made of the shadow between stars.”

Rebecca Roanhorse has written a masterpiece. Hands down, this is a masterpiece. The world building that goes on in this story is EPIC. There are maps, and a list of the people you will meet in this world, so that you are casually familiar with them by the time that you meet them. When you read a fantasy novel that has maps and an outline of the people/worlds/families etc., that you will meet, you are in for a treat. Black Sun is a refreshing fantasy that deals with real world problems, drama, betrayal, life, love, and loss that is impeccably written, thoughtful, supremely inclusive, and intentional.

Topics that will be discussed:
– Feminism
– Patriarchy
– Tradition
– Customs
– Blood magic/sorcery/cultists
– Culture
– Class/caste system
– Identity
– Gender roles
– Equality
– Socioeconomic issues
– Disabilities
– Politics
– Prophecy
– Revenge/retribution/vengeance
– Religious dissent
**Trigger warning: blood; mutilation/scarification; self-harm; drug and alcohol use; suicide

We begin with meeting Serapio, who is destined to fulfill a prophecy that his mother believes will take place with him, based on blood magic and a blood sacrifice to avenge loss that happened to their people. As we meet Serapio and learn his backstory, the story continues to move and go back and forth in time filling in parts of the story as the book converges both literally and figuratively to its culmination.

The book has multiple POV’s, shifting seamlessly back and forth in time, as you get to meet all sorts of people who brings such an angle to the story that you get caught up with everyone, wanting to know more. The author also incorporates the LGBTQIA+ community into this story as normal as breathing and living, which is exactly how life fits together. There was also a certain level of impeccable feminism in this book, that centered women in such a way, that made this story just come together perfectly.

There is the underdog who scrapes up from the bottom to make it to the highest pinnacle possible, only to be reminded of where they come from on a continual basis, which creates a tension that is palpable.

There are outcasts, who fit into the society and contributes to the ongoing upkeep of the community. There are the chosen ones, who are must be protected at all costs. There are so many great nuances that are put into this book, that anyone who picks this book up can see themselves represented. I really appreciated that aspect of everyone fitting together and having such fluidity that it made sense, and not have this tension of trying to operate with everyone looking and judging at others. No matter where you come from, there should be space for you, and this book made sure to point this aspect out.

I simply loved this book! I have to read more! I can’t wait until the 2nd installment to find out what is happening next. The world building, character development, mythology, plot, plot twist, time hops, and backstories have been beautifully done, and I haven’t read a book that gets it all right like this one. Well done! Definitely a 5 star for me!

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