This satirical, laugh-out-loud, send-up of the cozy world of white elitism in high tech start-ups (and make that perhaps corporate life in general) also stands in as a polished, inspirational how-to manual for becoming an awesome sales rep regardless of color. Askaripour, in this brilliant first novel, tackles racism and political correctness gone amuck.
Darren, the valedictorian of his Bronx high school, lives with his single mom and does an exceptional job managing a Manhattan Starbucks outpost. Happy with his Muslim girlfriend Soyora and lacking any directional ambition, Darren has managed for three years to avoid the prods of family and neighbors to “make something of himself,” until that is he stumbles into a sudden decision to convince a distracted start-up CEO to veer from his daily order of latte to instead get a more expensive Nitro cold brew. Impressed that Darren’s sold him something he doesn’t want, Rhett convinces him to interview for an entry level sales job at his company.
That company would be Sumwum (“SomeOne”)- a hilarious play on the misspellings of GenZ and start up culture- in addition to the crazy Saas platform investment craze. Sumwum offers up virtual therapists (forget about licenses and hello unqualified folks abroad) as an employee corporate benefit. The corporate culture at Sumwum itself is out of control, from screaming sessions to New Age talk to hazing to “Sumwunners” skateboarding the halls. And Darren gets singled out by the head of sales Clyde in a completely racist way, including designating him with the name of Buck as he came from Starbucks and is a black man out to make a buck.
Along the way, Darren loses himself to this new Buck persona and the business of making successful cold calls and money, to the point of ignoring his Mom who’s ailing, his girlfriend, and all his former friends. From there, things dissolve into mayhem.
As Darren narrates the story from his penthouse overlooking Central Park, Darren starts teaching others of color how to sell and land lucrative jobs, forming a group known as the Happy Campers that goes global. Meanwhile his former boss Clyde organizes a White race backlash founding the White United Society of Salespeople (“WUSS”). Laughter, tears, thrills, twists, comedic outrageousness, relentless racism, and profound life lessons ensue.