If you’re not already a big fan of Cree Myles, you’re about to be. The writer, musician, social activist, and Bookstagram queen edits Penguin Random House’s All Ways Black, an initiative that celebrates Black literature and the infinite ways to be Black. (Do yourself a favor and follow @allwaysblack on Instagram for more!)
Cree is also our newest book club host. Over the next six months, she’ll highlight six incredible works by Black authors—some classic, some contemporary, all must-reads. Her book club, Black Like We Never Left, shares a name with the virtual Black fiction read-a-thon she hosted with Penguin Random House and Belletrist earlier this year.
We’ll break down what Cree’s club is all about, starting with a welcome letter from Cree herself.
Black Like We Never Left: Welcome from Cree
Welcome to Black Like We Never Left, a new community on BookClub that celebrates Black stories and gives Black voices the platform they deserve.
Black Like We Never Left has allowed me to reimagine my own literary canon. One that explores themes like love, resilience, community, and freedom across generations and examines how modern novels are in conversation with classic titles.
Whether you identify as a reader or not (yet), I look forward to you joining me on this critical culture digest. Be prepared to take notes.
Reading Schedule & Authors
Like a more traditional book club, Black Like We Never Left will feature one book each month (starting today!). We’ll release videos—specifically, answers to our discussion guide questions—each week. After three weeks, you’ll be able to watch Cree’s full conversation on BookClub.
Cree’s selected authors include Mateo Askaripour, Octavia Butler, bell hooks, Robert Jones Jr., Toni Morrison, Jason Reynolds, and Tiphanie Yanique. Cree will occasionally be joined by guest hosts, including writer and activist Brea Baker, Love Radio author Ebony LaDelle, and Traci Thomas, host of “The Stacks” podcast.
Saying “you’re in for a treat” feels like an understatement—we can’t wait to hear what you think!
Q&A with Cree Myles
Curious what the name “Black Like We Never Left” means, or what Cree selected for her first book and why? Here are some questions we asked our new host.
BookClub: For folks who might not be familiar with you, tell us a little about yourself. Specifically, how did you get started on “Bookstagram”?
Cree Myles: My Bookstagram journey started—as many journeys do—with an awakening. I’d read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and desperately needed someone to talk to about it. No one around me had read it so I took to the internet. At the time I had a blog entitled “It’s My Bagina” (I know) but I realized that getting non-readers to pick up a book by forcing them to read a blog might not be the best strategy. So I shot a video for The Bluest Eye. I kept it at 90 seconds. That’s how it all started.
BC: We’re so excited you’re hosting a book club with us! Can you tell readers a little about why you’ve partnered with BookClub? What do you hope members of your club will come away with?
CM: As someone who spends a lot of time doing content creation, I understand what a powerful difference production value can make. I love what BookClub pours into these conversations, I genuinely believe that’s the level of attention and glamor books deserve.
BC: Your book club is called “Black Like We Never Left.” Where did that title come from, and why did you choose it for this club?
CM: It’s a play on words but also an acknowledgement that Black art and genius have always been here changing the landscape. As the saying goes, nothing moves without Black creativity. I deeply resonate with that.
BC: Kicking off your book club is Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour. Why did you choose this book and author?
CM: I needed to read it! When it first came out and Bookstagram was all in a tizzy, I didn’t read it only because I’m a contrarian but knew that as soon as I picked it up, I would love it and…did. It’s so funny, cringey and accurate.
BC: What topics do you think will be most interesting to discuss from Black Buck?
CM: Themes like microaggressions, respectability politics and capitalism run rampant throughout the book and are handled beautifully! I could talk about them all day, so I’m hopeful readers will feel the same.
BC: We’ll be releasing the full conversation with you and Mateo on May 31. What do readers have to look forward to?
CM: Mateo and I had a really good rapport with each other. His conversation is extremely similar to his writing, humorous and candid. We talked a lot about how Black Buck magnified experiences we both had working in corporate, especially what it’s like being the only Black person. We laughed, we joked, we even went out for Hookah afterwards! I think you will feel all of that in our convo.
Start Reading: Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
“There’s nothing like a Black man on a mission. No, let me revise that. There’s nothing like a Black salesman on a mission.”
From the opening lines of Black Buck, Mateo Askaripour’s fast-paced debut novel pulls you along with Darren Vender, a Starbucks barista whose life changes in a split second, so quickly you can barely catch your breath (in the best way). After a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the CEO of NYC’s hottest tech startup, Darren joins an elite sales team and transforms himself into Buck, the Muhammed Ali of sales who is suddenly unrecognizable to his friends and family. As the only Black person at the company, Buck must be ruthless and ambitious in a whole new way, and even though money, partying, and fame begin to follow him wherever he goes, more is never enough.
Then tragedy strikes at home, and Buck hatches a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.
Called “a high wire act full of verve and dark, comic energy” by Colson Whitehead, Black Buck is equal parts satire, thriller, romance, and absurdist fiction, and is a debut novel no one will ever forget. On BookClub, Mateo Askaripour joins Cree Myles for a conversation about how Buck’s story isn’t just a scathing review of racism in America’s workforce, but also a treatise on ambition, office culture, and why freedom is never free.
About the Author
Mateo Askaripour’s work aims to empower people of color to seize opportunities for advancement, no matter the obstacle. He was chosen as one of Entertainment Weekly’s “10 rising stars to make waves,” and his debut novel BLACK BUCK was both an instant New York Times bestseller and a Read With Jenna Today Show book club pick. He lives in Brooklyn. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @AskMateo.
Black Buck Discussion Questions
Feel free to use these questions in your own book club, or answer them as you follow along with Cree. We’ll release video answers from Cree and others over the next few weeks.
- In the initial author’s note, Buck sets the stage by saying “freedom, true freedom, the kind where you do what you want without fear, comes at a cost.” How does the concept of freedom come into play throughout the novel? Are the versions of freedom presented in the author’s note and the epilogue different?
- The idea of what it means to feel comfortable shows up throughout the novel, literally and figuratively. How does this differ for the main characters? Does it change as the action progresses?
- In chapter 2, Darren’s mother tells him, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.” How does this refrain continue to come around for Darren and also for those around him? Is this something you believe? Did the novel impact whether or not you believe this?
- Power and privilege are key themes in this novel. How do they show up in each section of the novel? How are they celebrated, misinterpreted, and abused?
- Mentorship is a thread that runs throughout the novel. Who is seen as a mentor? A mentee? Is there a defining line between the two? Can you think of a mentor in your life who had a profound impact on you?
- In chapter 19, Darren’s mother tells him: “It’s the duty of every man and woman who has achieved some success in life to pass it on.” Do you think duty motivates the characters in the novel? Do duty and success mean the same thing to every character?
- In addition to the overt racism running rampant at Sumwun, how do microaggressions show up? What about toxic masculinity?
- In chapter 29, Rhett claims that race is a dirty word, but diversity isn’t. Does this resonate with you? If so, how?
- Ambition and integrity often appear side-by-side in this story. Do they contradict each other? Or support each other? Is there a character that comes to mind who is able to manifest both well?
- Black Buck might sit on a bookshelf with contemporary titles like Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires or The Sellout by Paul Beatty. Which other books does it remind you of? What other Black authors or titles do you imagine it sharing a shelf with?
- Is this a story one of redemption or a cautionary tale? Is it satire or sincere? Why or why not? In what ways?
- How do pop culture and media play a role in the narrative? Which moments or references stood out to you as compelling or complicating?
- What struck you as important about the relationship between Jason and Darren? Why do you think it was a central relationship to the novel (or was it)?
We’re Just Getting Started
Join Black Like We Never Left today (new to BookClub? We've got a special free trial with your name on it), and stay tuned for more insights and conversations from Cree and some of today’s most influential Black creators. If you haven’t already, follow BookClub and Cree Myles on Instagram for updates. See you soon, reader!