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5 books to read if you enjoyed 'Black Buck' by Mateo Askaripour

Which title will you pick up next?
Illustration of The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee, Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley, The Sellout by Paul Beattie, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
TODAY Illustration / Amazon
/ Source: TODAY

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Jenna Bush Hager selected "Black Buck," by Mateo Askaripour, as her book club read for January 2021.

"'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," the TODAY with Hoda & Jenna co-host said.

Askaripour's debut is written as part novel, part how-to guide. It begins with 22-year-old Darren living a happy, status-quo life in Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York City. Despite being the valedictorian of his high school class, Darren did not go to college and instead, worked his way up to become the manager at a busy Starbucks. He lives with his mom, spends his free time with his longtime girlfriend and enjoys his unambitious existence until he has a fateful encounter with the CEO of a hot tech startup.

The CEO sees something special in the young barista and gives him a chance as the only Black salesman in his company. Darren takes on racism, explores what it means to be successful and uncovers harsh truths about life in sales in Askaripour's humorous and heart-wrenching novel. When Darren hits rock bottom and things at home take a tragic turn, he uses his smarts and his new job to help young people of color break down the barriers of the sales world.

If you enjoyed "Black Buck" and want to find a similar read to pick up next, Askaripour recommends these five picks.

"The Spook Who Sat by the Door" by Sam Greenlee

Set in Chicago in the 1960s and '70s, "The Spook Who Sat by the Door" is the fictional story of Dan Freeman, the first Black officer in the CIA. Freeman is put on display by the agency as proof of their commitment to racial integration.

After learning about the CIA's guerrilla warfare tactics, Freeman retires from the agency and returns to Chicago. In the ghettos of the inner city, he teams up with a local street gang and begins recruiting young Black men to become the Freedom Fighters. They go on to use violent and nonviolent measures to ensure the freedom of Black people across the country. This novel is both a thrilling satire and social commentary.

"Heads of the Colored People" by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

Thompson-Spires explores Black identity in this collection of vignettes. The stories range from darkly funny to heartbreaking as they discuss the truth of Black citizenship in today's society. The author's timely debut novel tackles themes of grief, race and identity politics.

"A Different Drummer" by William Melvin Kelley

Published in 1962, "A Different Drummer" tells the fictional story of the exodus of Black farmers from the Deep South following the departure of a young Black farmer named Tucker Caliban. The novel is written from the perspective of the white residents as the established order goes into chaos. Decades later, Kelley's satire continues to marvel readers.

"The Sellout" by Paul Beattie

Beattie's satirical novel "The Sellout," is a commentary on race and class in the United States. The narrator, a lower-middle class Black man named BonBon, lives in a run-down town called Dickens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. When his father, a controversial sociologist, dies in a police shootout, BonBon is left with nothing but financial ruin and a bill for the drive-thru funeral. Fueled by despair, BonBon commits the outrageous act of reinstating slavery in Dickens.

"Queenie" by Candice Carty-Williams

Carty-Williams' debut novel is about a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman named Queenie Jenkins. Queenie lives in London and works at a national newspaper. She is constantly forced to compare herself with her white middle-class colleagues and after a messy breakup with her white boyfriend, she dates a slew of toxic men. In her search for love and identity, Queenie faces relatable questions, asking herself, "Who am I?" and "Who do I want to be?"

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