‘Today Show’: Jenna Bush Hager’s First Book Club Pick of 2021 Is ‘Raw and Intimate’

Jenna Bush Hager of the Today Show is kicking off 2021 with a meaty “Read with Jenna” selection. Choosing an author’s debut novel that covers racism, success, and the sales world, Hager’s January pick is sure to be a page-turner for fiction enthusiasts.

Jenna Bush Hager of the 'Today Show'
Jenna Bush Hager of the ‘Today Show’ | Getty Images/Getty Images for Friends of Hudson River Park

‘Black Buck’ is Jenna Bush Hager’s January selection

Told with humor and emotional detail, Black Buck tells the story of Darren, an unambitious 22-year-old who lives with his mother in a Bed-Stuy brownstone. Despite being named valedictorian of his high school class, Darren skipped college and is content managing a Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan.

During one of his shifts, Darren meets Rhett, CEO of Sumwun, New York City’s hottest tech startup. Rhett sees potential in the barista and recruits him for the company’s sales department. The only Black salesman at Sumwun, Darren gets the nickname “Buck” and soon will do anything in order to be at the top of the sales numbers.

Darren’s ruthless tactics cause rifts with his family and friends, where he soon hits bottom in the midst of tragedy striking at home. Exploring themes of racism, the cutthroat world of sales, and how far one would go for success, Black Buck inspires readers when Darren creates a plan to help people of color make their way into the country’s sales force.

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Jenna Bush Hager calls the novel ‘funny’ yet ‘heartbreaking’

Hager saw Mateo Askaripour’s first novel as the perfect way to start 2021. Both compelling and entertaining, Black Buck is sure to keep readers engaged from start to finish as they see how Darren evolves throughout the story.

“‘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, according to Today.com. “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.”

The Today Show star was drawn to the novel’s introspection and thorough depiction of Darren’s journey.

“The details are so intimate, spot on and beautiful,” the Today Show star commented. “I found myself underlining constantly.”

Mateo Askaripour comes from the sales world

Drawing upon his own career in sales, Askaripour wanted to provide helpful information throughout his novel for those in the industry.

“I wanted this book to truly double as a sales manual,” Askaripour remarked. “I was first and foremost, honestly, writing for myself. This is something that I would want to read, and then secondly, writing for people who have been in situations like Buck.”

Using some of his personal experience with racism and an aspiring sales career, Askaripour had plenty of material for Darren’s story.

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“I was sort of at creative rock bottom,” the first-time novelist 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.'”

Black Buck is now on sale.