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Ishmael Reed - book author

Ishmael Scott Reed is an American poet, essayist, and novelist. A prominent African-American literary figure, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.

Reed has been described as one of the most controversial writers. While his work has often sought to represent neglected African and African-American perspectives, his energy and advocacy have centered more broadly on neglected peoples and perspectives irrespective of their cultural origins.

Ishmael Reed is the author of books: Mumbo Jumbo, Flight to Canada, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Japanese by Spring, The Last Days of Louisiana Red, Terrible Twos, Reckless Eyeballing, From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across America, Blues City: A Walk in Oakland

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01
The Classic Freewheeling Look at Race Relations Through the Ages

Mumbo Jumbo is Ishmael Reed's brilliantly satiric deconstruction of Western civilization, a racy and uproarious commentary on our society. In it, Reed, one of our preeminent African-American authors, mixes portraits of historical figures and fictional characters with sound bites on subjects ranging from ragtime to Greek philosophy. Cited by literary critic Harold Bloom as one of the five hundred most significant books in the Western canon, Mumbo Jumbo is a trenchant and often biting look at black-white relations throughout history, from a keen observer of our culture.
02
Ishmael Reed has created a sharp, wildly funny slave's-eye view of the Civil War. Three slaves infected with Dysaethesia Aethipica (a term coined in the nineteenth century for the disease that makes Negroes run away) escape from Virginia. Not satisfied with leaving slavery halfway, one of the trio has vowed to go the whole distance to Canada; his master, Arthur Swille, determined to recover his property, pursues, hot on Raven Quickskill's trail.

With his myth-bending ingenuity, Reed merges history, fantasy, political reality, and high comedy as he parodies the fugitive slave narrative: the slave-poet Quickskill flees to Canada on a nonstop jumbo jet; Abe Lincoln waltzes through slave quarters to the tune of "Hello Dolly"; the plantation mistress lies in bed watching the Beecher Hour on TV. Flight to Canada's preposterous episodes leap out from the pages of history to reveal a keen sense of America past and present.
03
"Folks. This here is the story of the Loop Garoo Kid. A cowboy so bad he made a working posse of spells phone in sick. A bullwhacker so unfeeling he left the print of winged mice on hides of crawling women. A desperado so onery he made the Pope cry and the most powerful of cattlemen shed his head to the Executioner's swine." And so begins the HooDoo Western by Ishmael Reed, author of Mumbo Jumbo and one of America's most innovative and celebrated writers. Reed demolishes white American history and folklore as well as Christian myth in this masterful satire of contemporary American life. In addition to the black, satanic Loop Garoo Kid, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down features Drag Gibson (a rich, slovenly cattleman), Mustache Sal (his nymphomaniac mail-order bride), Thomas Jefferson and many others in a hilarious parody of the old Western.
04

"For all the talk of the black aesthetic, few black novelists have broken sharply with the traditional devices of the realistic novel. One writer who departs from such conventions, however, is Ishmael Reed. . . . The Free-Lance Pallbearers uses an explosive combination of straightforward English prose, exaggerated black dialect, hip jargon, advertising slogans and long, howling uppercase screams."—Newsweek

Ishmael Reed's electrifying first novel zooms readers off to the crazy, ominous kingdom of HARRY SAM—a miserable and dangerous place ruled for thirty years by Harry Sam, a former used car salesman who wields his power from his bathroom throne. In a land of a thousand contradictions peopled by cops and beatniks, black nationalists and white liberals, the crusading Bukka Doopeyduk leads a rebellion against the corrupt Sam in a wildly uproarious and scathing satire, earning the author the right to be dubbed "the brightest contributor to American satire since Mark Twain" (The Nation).
05
Benjamin "Chappie" Puttbutt, a black junior professor at the overwhelmingly white Jack London College, lusts after tenure and its glorious perks (including a house in the Oakland Hills). He spends most of his time trying to divine the ideological climate of the school and obligingly adapting his beliefs to it. When Puttbutt's mysterious Japanese tutor, who promises to teach him Japanese by spring, suddenly becomes the school's new president and appoints Puttbutt as academic dean, the fun really begins—for Puttbutt sets out to stir things up and settle old scores.Turning every contemporary political and social movement on its head—from feminism to nationalism to jingoism—this boisterous and irreverent novel manages to be by turns hilarious and totally serious.

"One of the funniest satires of university politics I've ever read. Ishmael Reed is funnier than Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal." —Leslie Marmon Silko

"Reed is, as always, an American original; a wiseguy whose wisdom is the real thing," —The Boston Sunday Globe
06
When Papa LaBas (private eye, noonday HooDoo, and hero of Reed's Mumbo Jumbo) comes to Berkeley, California, to investigate the mysterious death of Ed Yellings, owner of the Solid Gumbo Works, he finds himself fighting the rising tide of violence propagated by Louisiana Red and those militant opportunists, the Moochers.



A HooDoo detective story and a comprehensive satire on the explosive politics of the '60s, The Last Days of Louisiana Red exposes the hypocrisy of contemporary American culture and race politics.
07
"The Terrible Twos" is a wickedly funny, sharp-edged fictional assault on all those sulky, spoiled naysayers needing instant gratification--Americans. Ishmael Reed's sixth novel depicts a zany, bizarre, and all-too believable future where mankind's fate depends upon St. Nicholas and a Risto rasta dwarf named Black Peter, who together wreak mischievous havoc on Wall Street and in the Oval Office. This offbeat, on-target social critique makes marvelous fun of everything that is American, from commercialism to Congress, Santa Claus to religions cults.
08
Masochism is out and feminism is in, Jews are out and Germans are in, race is out and gender is in, and everyone's fighting (and rewriting) for a piece of the pie. Jewish director Jim Minsk disappears during a trip to the South. Black playwright Ian Ball writes the all-female play Reckless Eyeballing in hopes of getting off the "sex-list." Preeminent playwright Jack Brashford, claiming the Jews stole all his black material, decides to write about Armenians. In the background, an unknown assailant dubbed the "Flower Phantom" runs loose through the city shaving heads of prominent black feminists (to the secret delight of black men).

In this hilarious, devastating, but also deeply sympathetic novel, Ishmael Reed turns characters on the backs, sides, tops and bottoms to expose the multiple hypocrisies at the heart of American culture.
09
Celebrated novelist, poet, and MacArthur fellow Ishmael Reed pushes the boundaries once again in the publication of From Totems to Hip Hop—a truly all-inclusive multicultural anthology—a literary event which will finally even the playing field. This important collection synthesizes and presents broad swaths of work from poets of all races and backgrounds, as only Reed can, ranging from Gertrude Stein to Ai, from Bessie Smith to Askia Toure, from W. C. Handy to the little-known poetry of Ernest Hemingway. Through his unique position in American letters, as writer, teacher, and even publisher, Reed has an unparalleled working knowledge of many of the more marginalized voices in American poetry. This collection will reflect that unique access by including acknowledged masters as well as lesser known talents in greater variety than any previous anthology. From Totems to Hip Hop will cover American poetry from its pre-Columbian origins to the hip hop lyricists of today and, with the guidance of Reed's thoughtful and provocative introduction and headnotes, trace the remarkably rich cross-pollination which has continually occurred across racial and cultural lines.
10
Oakland is a blues city, brawling and husky . . .

Often overshadowed by San Francisco, its twinkling sister city across the Bay, Oakland is itself an American wonder. The city is surrounded by and filled with natural beauty—mountains and hills and lakes and a bay—and architecture that mirrors its history as a Spanish mission, Gold Rush outpost, and home of the West’s most devious robber barons. It’s also a city of artists and blue-collar workers, the birthplace of the Black Panthers, neighbor to Berkeley, and home to a vibrant and volatile stew of immigrants and refugees.

In Blues City, Ishmael Reed, one of our most brilliant essayists, takes us on a tour of Oakland, exploring its fascinating history, its beautiful hills and waterfronts, and its odd cultural juxtapositions. He takes us into a year in the life of this amazing city, to black cowboy parades and Indian powwows, to Black Panther reunions and Gay Pride concerts, to a Japanese jazz club where a Lakota musician plays Coltrane’s “Naima.” Reed provides a fascinating tour of an un-tamed, unruly western outpost set against the backdrop of political intrigues, ethnic rivalries, and a gentrification-obsessed mayor, opening our eyes not only to a singular city, but to a newly emerging America.