Reed, Ishmael 1938–
Reed, Ishmael 1938–
PERSONAL: Born February 22, 1938, in Chattanooga, TN; son of Henry Lenoir (a fundraiser for YMCA) and Thelma Coleman (a homemaker and salesperson); step-father, Bennie Stephen Reed (an auto worker); married Priscilla Rose Thompson, September, 1960 (divorced, 1970); married Carla Blank (a modern dancer), 1970; children: (first marriage) Timothy, Brett (daughter); (second marriage) Tennessee Maria (daughter). Education: Attended State University of New York at Buffalo, 1956–60. Politics: Independent.
ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Author Mail, Avon Books, 1790 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer. Empire Star Weekly, staff writer, 1960–62; freelance writer, New York, NY, 1962–67. East Village Other, New York, NY, cofounder, 1965; Advance, Newark, NJ, cofounder, 1965. Yardbird Publishing Co., Berkeley, CA, cofounder, 1971, editorial director, 1971–75; Reed, Cannon & Johnson Communications Co. (publisher and producer of videocassettes), Berkeley, cofounder, 1973–; Before Columbus Foundation (producer and distributor of work of unknown ethnic writers), Berkeley, cofounder, 1976–; Ishmael Reed and Al Young's Quilt (magazine), Berkeley, co-founder, 1980–. Teacher at St. Mark's in the Bowery prose workshop, 1966; guest lecturer, University of California, Berkeley, 1968–, University of Washington, 1969–70, State University of New York at Buffalo, summer, 1975, and fall, 1979, Yale University, fall, 1979, Dartmouth College, summers, 1980–81, Sitka Community Association, summer, 1982, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, 1982, Columbia University, 1983, Harvard University, 1987, and Regents lecturer, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1988. Judge of National Poetry Competition, 1980, King's County Literary Award, 1980, and University of Michigan Hop-wood Award, 1981. Chair of Berkeley Arts Commission, 1980 and 1981. Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, chair of board of directors, 1975–79, advisory board chair, 1977–79. Executive producer of pilot episode of soap opera Personal Problems and copublisher of The Steve Cannon Show: A Quarterly Audio-Cassette Radio Show Magazine.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, PEN, Celtic Foundation.
AWARDS, HONORS: Certificate of Merit, California Association of English Teachers, 1972, for 19 Necromancers from Now; nominations for National Book Award in fiction and poetry, 1973, for Mumbo Jumbo and Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970; nomination for Pulitzer Prize in poetry, 1973, for Conjure; Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1975, for The Last Days of Louisiana Red; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation award for fiction, 1974; Guggenheim fellowship, 1975; American Academy award, 1975; National Institute of Arts and Letters honor, 1975; Poetry in Public Places winner (New York City), 1976, for poem "From the Files of Agent 22," and for a bicentennial mystery play, The Lost State of Franklin, written in collaboration with Carla Blank and Suzushi Hanayagi; Lewis Michaux Award, 1978; American Civil Liberties Award, 1978; Pushcart Prize for essay "American Poetry: Is There a Center?," 1979; Wisconsin Arts Board fellowship, 1982; associate fellow of Calhoun College, Yale University, 1982; American Civil Liberties Union publishing fellowship; three New York State publishing grants for merit; three National Endowment for the Arts publishing grants for merit; California Arts Council grant; associate fellow, Harvard Signet Society, 1987–; Langston Hughes Medal for Lifetime Achievement, 1994; Honorary doctorate, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1995; MacArthur fellowship, 1998.
The Free-Lance Pallbearers, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1967.
Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1969.
Mumbo Jumbo, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1972.
The Last Days of Louisiana Red, Random House (New York, NY), 1974.
Flight to Canada, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
The Terrible Twos, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1982.
Reckless Eyeballing, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1986.
The Terrible Threes, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1989.
Japanese by Spring, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1993.
Shrovetide in Old New Orleans (essays), Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1978.
God Made Alaska for the Indians: Selected Essays, Garland (New York, NY), 1982.
Writin' Is Fightin': Thirty-seven Years of Boxing on Paper, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988, revised and expanded edition published as Writing Is Fighting: Forty-three Years of Boxing on Paper, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1998.
Airing Dirty Laundry, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1993.
The Reed Reader, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Another Day at the Front: Dispatches from the Race War, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to numerous volumes, including Amistad I: Writings on Black History and Culture, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1970; The Black Aesthetic, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1971; Nommo: An Anthology of Modern Black African and Black American Literature, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1972; Cutting Edges: Young American Fiction for the '70s, Holt (New York, NY), 1973; Superfiction; or, The American Story Transformed: An Anthology, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1975; and American Poets in 1976, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1976.
Hell Hath No Fury …, produced by the Playwrights and Directors Project of the Actors Studio in New York, NY, June, 1980.
Savage Wilds, produced at the Julia Morgan Theater, Berkeley, CA, January, 1988.
Hubba City, produced at the Black Repertory Theatre, 1988.
The Preacher and the Rapper, produced in New York, NY, 1994.
Also author of The Lost State of Franklin with Carla Blank and Suzushi Hanayagi, 1976.
(As Emmett Coleman) The Rise, Fall, and …? of Adam Clayton Powell, Beeline (Albany, NY), 1967.
(Also author of introduction, and contributor) 19 Necromancers from Now, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970.
(With Al Young) Yardbird Lives!, Grove (New York, NY), 1978.
(And contributor) Calafia: The California Poetry, Yard-bird Books (Berkeley, CA), 1979.
(With Kathryn Trueblood and Shawn Wong) The Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology: Selections from the American Book Awards, 1980–1990, Norton (New York, NY), 1992.
MultiAmerica: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.
From Totems to Hip-Hop (collected poetry), Thunder Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Catechism of d Neoamerican Hoodoo Church, Paul Breman (London, England), 1970, Broadside Press (Highland Park, MI), 1971.
Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1972.
Chattanooga: Poems, Random House (New York, NY), 1973.
A Secretary to the Spirits, illustrations by Betye Saar, NOK Publishers (New York, NY), 1977.
New and Collected Poems, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1988.
Poetry also represented in anthologies, including Where Is Vietnam? American Poets Respond: An Anthology of Contemporary Poems, Doubleday, 1967; The New Black Poetry, International Publishers (New York, NY), 1969; The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Norton (New York, NY), 1970; The Poetry of the Negro, 1746–1970, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1970; Afro-American Literature: An Introduction, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1971; The Writing on the Wall: 108 American Poems of Protest, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1971; Major Black Writers, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1971; The Black Poets, Bantam (New York, NY), 1971; The Poetry of Black America: Anthology of the 20th Century, Harper (New York, NY), 1972; and Giant Talk: An Anthology of Third World Writings, Random House (New York, NY), 1975.
Ishmael Reed Reading His Poetry (cassette), Temple of Zeus, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1976.
Ishmael Reed and Michael Harper Reading in the UCSD New Poetry Series (reel), University of California, San Diego (San Diego, CA), 1977.
(With Al Young) Personal Problems (video script), 1980.
(Author of introduction) Elizabeth A. Settle and Thomas A. Settle, Ishmael Reed: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1982.
Cab Calloway Stands in for the Moon, Bamberger (Flint, MI), 1986.
(With Richard Nagler) Oakland Rhapsody: The Secret Soul of an American Downtown, North Atlantic Books (Berkeley, CA), 1995.
Conversations with Ishmael Reed, edited by Bruce Dick and Amritjit Singh, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1995.
The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress, Ishmael Reed (cassette), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1996.
Ishmael Reed and Garrett Hongo Reading Their Poems in the Mumfoud Room (cassette), Library of Congress (Washington, DC), 1996.
Also author, with wife, Carla Blank, and Suzushi Hanayagi, of a bicentennial mystery play, The Lost State of Franklin.
Author of foreword, Dark Eros, edited by Reginald Martin, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997. Contributor of fiction to such periodicals as Fiction, Iowa Review, Nimrod, Players, Ramparts, Seattle Review, and Spokane Natural; contributor of articles and reviews to numerous periodicals, including Black World, Confrontation, Essence, Le Monde, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Playgirl, Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Washington Post, and Yale Review; and contributor of poetry to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Black Scholar, Black World, Essence, Liberator, Negro Digest, Noose, San Francisco Examiner, Oakland Tribune, Life, Connoisseur, and Umbra. Cofounder of periodicals East Village Other and Advance (Newark community newspaper), both 1965. Editor of Yardbird Reader, 1972–76; editor-in-chief, Y'Bird magazine, 1978–80; and coeditor of Quilt magazine, 1981.
ADAPTATIONS: Some of Reed's poetry has been scored and recorded on New Jazz Poets; a dramatic episode from The Last Days of Louisiana Red appears on The Steve Cannon Show: A Quarterly Audio-Cassette Radio Show Magazine, produced by Reed, Cannon & Johnson Communications.
SIDELIGHTS: The novels of writer Ishmael Reed "are meant to provoke," wrote New York Times contributor Darryl Pinckney. "Though variously described as a writer in whose work the black picaresque tradition has been extended, as a misogynist or an heir to both [Zora Neale] Hurston's folk lyricism and [Ralph] Ellison's irony, he is, perhaps because of this, one of the most underrated writers in America. Certainly no other contemporary black writer, male or female, has used the language and beliefs of folk culture so imaginatively, and few have been so stinging about the absurdity of American racism." Yet this novelist, poet, and essayist is not simply a voice of black protest against racial and social injustices but instead a confronter of universal evils, a purveyor of universal truths.
Reed's first novel, The Free-Lance Pallbearers, introduces several thematic and stylistic devices that reappear throughout his canon. In the novel, Reed's first satirical jab is at the oppressive, stress-filled, Western/ European/Christian tradition. But in The Free-Lance Pallbearers, the oppressor/oppressed, evil/good dichotomy does not absolve blacks. While Reed blames whites, called HARRY SAM in the novel, for present world conditions, he also attacks culpable individuals from different strata in the black community and satirizes various kinds of black leaders in the twentieth century. Among the black characters whom Reed describes negatively are Elijah Raven, the Muslim/Black Nationalist whose ideas of cultural and racial separation in the United States are exposed as lies; Eclair Pock-chop, the minister fronting as an advocate of the people's causes, later discovered performing an unspeakable sex act on SAM; the black cop who protects white people from the blacks in the projects and idiotically allows a cow-bell to be put around his neck for "meritorious service"; Doopeyduk's neighbors, who are too stupid to remember their own names; and finally Doopeyduk himself, whose pretensions of being a black intellectual render all his statements and actions absurd. Reed reserves his most scathing satire for the black leaders who cater to SAM in his palace.
The rhetoric of popular black literature in the 1960s is also satirized in The Free-Lance Pallbearers. The polemics of the time, characterized by colloquial diction, emotionalism, direct threats, automatic writing, and blueprints for a better society, are portrayed as representing the negative kind of literature required of blacks by the reading public. Reed suggests that while literature by blacks might have been saying that blacks would no longer subscribe to white dictates, in fact the converse was true, manifested in the very literature that the publishing houses generally were printing at the time.
In his novel, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Reed begins to use at length Hoodoo (or Voodoo) methods and folklore as a basis for his work. Underlying all of the components of Hoodoo, according to scholars, are two precepts: 1) the idea of syncretism, or the combination of beliefs and practices with divergent cultural origins, and 2) the concept of time. Even before the exportation of slaves to the Caribbean, Hoodoo was a syncretic reli-gion, absorbing all that it considered useful from other West African religious practices. As a religion formed to combat degrading social conditions by dignifying and connecting man with helpful supernatural forces, Hoodoo is said to thrive because of its syncretic flexibility, its ability to combine different influences and transfigure them into that which helps the "horse," or the one possessed by the attributes of a Hoodoo god. Hoodoo is bound by certain dogma or rites, but such rules are easily changed when they become oppressive, myopic, or no longer useful.
Reed turns this concept of syncretism into a literary method that combines aspects of "standard" English, including dialect, slang, argot, neologisms, or rhyme, with less "standard" language, taken from the streets, popular music, and television. By mixing language from different sources, Reed employs expressions that can both evoke interest and humor through seeming incongruities and create the illusion of real speech. In the Black American Literature Forum, Michel Fabre drew a connection between Reed's use of language and his vision of the world, suggesting that "his so-called nonsense words raise disturbing questions … about the very nature of language." Often, "the semantic implications are disturbing because opposite meanings coexist." Thus Reed emphasizes "the dangerous interchange-ability of words and of the questionable identity of things and people" and "poses anguishing questions about self-identity, about the mechanism of meaning and about the nature of language and communication."
Syncretism and synchronicity, along with other facets of Hoodoo as literary method, are central to Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down. The title is street-talk for the elucidation of a problem, in this case the racial and oligarchical difficulties of an Old West town, Yellow Back Radio; these difficulties are explained, or "broke down," for the reader. The novel opens with a description of the Hoodoo fetish, or mythical cult figure, Loop Garoo. Loop embodies diverse ethnic backgrounds and a history and power derived from several religions.
Reed's first major volume of poetry, called Conjure: Selected Poems, 1963–1970, was followed by Chattanooga: Poems, and A Secretary to the Spirits. Reed draws most of the symbols in his poetry from Afro-American and Anglo-American historical and popular traditions—two distinct but intertwined sources for the Afro-American aesthetic. "Black Power Poem" succinctly states the Hoodoo stance in the West: "may the best church win. / shake hands now and come out conjuring"; "Neo-Hoodoo Manifesto," defines all that Hoodoo is and thus sheds light on the ways Reed uses its principles in writing.
The theme of Reed's Mumbo Jumbo is the origin and composition of the "true Afro-American aesthetic." Testifying to the novel's success in fulfilling this theme, Houston Baker in Black World said Mumbo Jumbo "gives one a sense of the broader vision and the careful, painful, and laborious 'fundamental brainwork' that are needed if we are to define the eternal dilemma of the Black Arts and work fruitfully toward its melioration…. [The novel's] overall effect is that of amazing talent and flourishing genius." Mumbo Jumbo's first chapter is crucial in that it presents the details of the highly complex plot in synopsis or news-flash form. Reed has a Hoodoo detective named Papa LaBas (representing the Hoodoo god Legba) search out and reconstruct a black aesthetic from remnants of literary and cultural history. Lending the narrative authenticity, Reed inserts facts from nonfictional, published works, photographs, historical drawings, and a bibliography.
At the opening of Mumbo Jumbo, set in New Orleans in the 1920s, white municipal officials are trying to respond to "Jes Grew," an outbreak of behavior outside of socially conditioned roles; white people are "acting black" by dancing half-dressed in the streets to an intoxicating new loa (the spiritual essence of a fetish) called jazz. Speaking in tongues, people abandon racist and other oppressive endeavors because it is more fun to "shake that thing." One of the doctors assigned to treat the pandemic of Jes Grew comments, "There are no isolated cases in this thing. It knows no class no race no consciousness." No one knows where the germ has come from; it "jes grew." In the synoptic first chapter, the omniscient narrator says Jes Grew is actually "an anti-plague. Some plagues caused the body to waste away. Jes Grew enlivened the host."
Hoodoo time resurfaces in Mumbo Jumbo. Certain chapters detailing past events in the past tense are immediately followed by chapters set in the present, mirroring Hoodoo/oral culture. The juxtaposition links all of the actions within a single narrative time frame. Commenting on his use both of time and of fiction-filled news-flashes, Reed said in Shrovetide in Old New Orleans that in writing Mumbo Jumbo, he "wanted to write about a time like the present or to use the past to prophesy about the future."
The close of Mumbo Jumbo finds Jes Grew withering with the burning of its text, the Book of Thoth, which lists the sacred spells and dances of the Egyptian god Osiris. LaBas says Jes Grew will reappear some day to make its own text: "A future generation of young artists will accomplish this," says LaBas, referring to the writers, painters, politicians, and musicians of the 1960s.
In the course of the narrative, Reed constructs his history of the true Afro-American aesthetic and parallels the uniting of Afro-American oral tradition, folklore, art, and history with a written code, a text, a literate recapitulation of history and practice. By calling for a unification of text and tradition, Reed equates the Text (the Afro-American aesthetic) with all other "Holy" codifications of faith. Mumbo Jumbo, which itself becomes the Text, appears as a direct, written response to the assertion that there is no "black" aesthetic, that black contributions to the world culture have been insignificant at best.
The Last Days of Louisiana Red consists of three major story lines that coalesce toward the close of the novel to form its theme. The book begins with the tale of Ed Yellings, an industrious, middle-class black involved in the propagation of Hoodoo. Through experimentation in his business, Solid Gumbo Works, Yellings discovers a cure for cancer and is hard at work to refine and market this remedy and other remedies for the various aspects of Louisiana Red, the Hoodoo name for all evil. When he is mysteriously murdered, Hoodoo detective Papa LaBas appears to investigate. The action of the novel involves participants in the second and third story lines, the tale of the Chorus and the recounting of the mythical Antigone's decision to oppose the dictates of the state. The Chorus symbolizes black Americans who will not disappear. Even though they are relegated by more powerful forces to minor roles, they work for the right to succeed or fail depending upon their merits. Therein lies Reed's theme in The Last Days of Louisiana Red.
In The Terrible Twos, Reed maintains the implicit notions of Hoodoo while using his main story line to resurrect another apocryphal tale: the legend of Santa Claus and his assistant/boss, Black Peter. The time frame of the novel is roughly Christmas 1980 to Christmases of the 1990s. The evil of The Terrible Twos is selfishness fed by an exclusive monetary system, such as capitalism. Reed does not endorse any other sort of government now in existence but criticizes any person or system that ignores what is humanly right, in favor of what is economically profitable. Santa Claus (an out-of-work television personality) exemplifies the way Hoodoo fights this selfish evil: by bringing those who were prosperous to the level of those who have nothing and are abandoned. Santa characterizes American capitalists, those with material advantages, as infantile, selfish and exclusionary because their class station does not allow them to empathize with those who are different. The story continues in The Terrible Threes, set in the late 1990s and featuring many of the same characters. In the sequel, John O'Brien revealed in Washington Post Book World, "the country is in a state of chaos, having chased its president into a sanatorium after he revealed on national television a White House conspiracy to purge America of its poor and homeless, as well as to destroy Nigeria." "Reed's eerie, weird, implausible world has a way of sounding all too real, too much like what we hear on the evening news," O'Brien concluded. "And Reed has an unnerving sense of what will show up next on our televisions. He is without doubt our finest satirist since Twain."
Several critics warned that readers will find Threes nearly incomprehensible without first reading Twos. Further, New York Times Book Review critic Gerald Early observed, "The major problem with The Terrible Threes is that it seems to vaporize even as you read it; the very telling artifices that held together Mr. Reed's novelistic art in previous works, that cunning combination of boundless energy and shrewdly husbanded ingenuity, are missing here." Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Jacob Epstein found that "Reed's vision of the future (and our present and past) is original and subversive. Subversion is out of style these days, but unfashionable or not, Reed is an always interesting writer and this book deserves to be read."
Reckless Eyeballing is a satiric allegory. Ian Ball, a black male writer, responds to the poor reception of his earlier play, Suzanna, by writing Reckless Eyeballing, a play sure to please those in power with its vicious attacks against black men. ("Reckless eyeballing" was one of the accusations against Emmett Till, the young Chicago black man who was murdered in Mississippi in 1953 for "looking and whistling at a white woman.") Tremonisha Smarts, a black female writer whose first name is drawn from a Scott Joplin opera of that title, is alternately popular and unpopular with the white women who are promoting her books. The battle for whose vision will dominate in the literary market and popular culture is fierce.
Reed followed his publication of The Reed Reader, a sampling of his writings including plays, fiction, essays, and poems, with Another Day at the Front: Dispatches from the Race War. According to Clifford Thompson in Black Issues Book Review, Another Day at the Front is "based on the central, guiding belief that African Americans are under attack in a war fought through propaganda." Booklist's Vernon Ford said the book "offers a remarkable work of race in America," focusing on everything from "historical context to contemporary realities."
In Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, "Reed tours historic districts and homes, and attends parades, festivals and performances, to discover the many worlds within Oakland," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. While the book "doesn't live up to the 'husky and brawling' swagger of the city Reed describes," continued the reviewer, it is "filled with facts, dates, and a variety of cultural events." Booklist's Vanessa Bush called Blues City "an eclectic look at the multicultural city that thrives in the shadows of the better known and celebrated San Francisco."
Reed's From Totems to Hip-Hop is a survey of American poetry, including such legendary poets as Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot, to rapper Tupac Shakur. "The result is a significant publication that will create a new generation of readers as well as a much-needed cultural consensus," noted Daniel Guillory in Library Journal. Booklist's Donna Seaman agreed, calling From Totems to Hip-Hop "a dynamic and original anthology, an unprecedented amalgam of poets representing many facets of American culture and society."
In addition to his novels and poetry, Reed has also written numerous essays and nonfiction pieces about contemporary American society and politics. Thirty-five of these essays, were collected and published as Airing Dirty Laundry. Among Reed's subjects are the misrepresentation of blacks by the mass media, the misguided attacks on multicultural education in schools, and contemporary black intellectuals who have had a significant impact on white America, even though most whites have not heard of them. Jill Nelson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, observed: "Always provocative, sometimes infuriating, this collection reminds us that the purpose of art is not to confirm and coddle but to provoke and confront."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
African American Writers, Scribner (New York, NY), 1991.
Boyer, Jay, Ishmael Reed, Boise State University Press (Boise, ID), 1993.
Contemporary African American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook, Greewood Press (Westport, CT), 1999.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 6, 1976, Volume 8, 1980, Volume 32, 1985.
Contemporary Novelists, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Contemporary Poets, 7th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.
Contemporary Southern Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 2: American Novelists since World War II, 1978, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, 1980, Volume 33: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, 1984, Volume 227: American Novelists since World War II, Sixth Series, 2000.
Encyclopedia of World Biography, Volume 23, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.
Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
Joyce, Joyce Ann, Warriors, Conjurers, and Priests: Defining African-Centered Literary Criticism, Third World Press (Chicago, IL), 1994.
Klinkowitz, Jerome, Literary Subversions: New American Fiction and the Practice of Criticism, Southern Illinois University Press (Carbondale, IL), 1985.
Ludwig, Sami, Concrete Language: Intercultural Communication in Maxine Hong Kingston's "The Woman Warrior" and Ishmael Reed's "Mumbo Jumbo," [New York], 1996.
Martin, Reginald, Ishmael Reed and the New Black Aesthetic Critics, Macmillan (London, England), 1987.
Modern American Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.
O'Donnell, Patrick, and Robert Con Davis, editors, Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1989.
Ostendorf, Berndt, Black Literature in White America, Noble (Totowa, NJ), 1982.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Settle, Elizabeth A., and Thomas A. Settle, Ishmael Reed: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1982.
Amerasia Journal, February, 1999, review of Multi-America: Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace, p. 181.
American Book Review, May-June, 1983; October-November, 1994, p. 17.
American Poetry Review, May-June, 1976; January-February, 1978.
Arizona Quarterly, autumn, 1979.
Black American Literature Forum, Volume 12, 1978; spring, 1979; spring, 1980; fall, 1984.
Black Enterprise, January, 1973; December, 1982; April, 1983; October, 1994, p. 169.
Black Issues Book Review, March, 2002, review of Mumbo Jumbo, review of The Free-Lance Pallbearers, review of Flight to Canada, p. 26; January-February, 2003, Clifford Thompson, "Call Him Ishmael: The Controversial (Some Say Reckless) Cultural Critic Ishmael Reed Returns a New Collection of Essays Appropriately Titled Another Day at the Front," p. 40, review of Another Day at the Front: Dispatches from the Race War, p. 52.
Black World, October, 1971; December, 1972; January, 1974; June, 1974; June, 1975; July, 1975.
Booklist, June 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of The Reed Reader, p. 1838; December 15, 2002, Vernon Ford, review of Another Day at the Front, p. 713; February 15, 2003, review of From Totems to Hip-Hop, p. 1038; September 15, 2003, review of Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, p. 198.
Chicago Review, fall, 1976.
Chicago Tribune Book World, April 27, 1986.
Critical Inquiry, June, 1983.
Dalhousie Review, spring, 2000, review of The Reed Reader, p. 137.
Essence, July, 1986; July, 1994, p. 38.
Harper's, December, 1969.
Iowa Review, spring, 1982, pp. 117-131.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Another Day at the Front, p. 1598; June 15, 2003, review of Blues City: A Walk in Oakland, p. 850.
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Daniel L. Guillory, review of From Totems to Hip-Hop, p. 104.
Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1975.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 20, 1986; June 4, 1989; April 14, 1991, p. 10.
MELUS, spring, 1984.
Mississippi Quarterly, winter, 1984–85, pp. 21-32.
Mississippi Review, Volume 20, numbers 1-2, 1991.
Modern Fiction Studies, summer, 1976; spring, 1988, pp. 97-123.
Modern Poetry Studies, autumn, 1973; autumn, 1974.
Nation, September 18, 1976; May 22, 1982
Negro American Literature Forum, winter, 1967; winter, 1972.
Negro Digest, February, 1969; December, 1969.
New Republic, November 23, 1974.
New Yorker, October 11, 1969.
New York Review of Books, October 5, 1972; December 12, 1974; August 12, 1982; January 29, 1987; October 12, 1989, p. 20.
New York Times, August 1, 1969; August 9, 1972; June 17, 1982; April 5, 1986; September 28, 1995, p. A1; February 7, 1996, p. C12; May 13, 1997, p. C14.
New York Times Book Review, August 6, 1972; November 10, 1974; September 19, 1976; July 18, 1982; March 23, 1986; May 7, 1989; April 7, 1991, p. 32; February 13, 1994, p. 28.
Obsidian, spring-summer, 1979; spring-summer, 1986, pp. 113-127.
Partisan Review, spring, 1975.
People, December 16, 1974.
Phylon, December, 1968; June, 1975.
Publishers Weekly, June 23, 2003, review of Blues City, p. 53.
Review of Contemporary Fiction, summer, 1984; spring, 1987; summer, 1994, p. 227.
San Francisco Review of Books, November, 1975; January-February, 1983.
Saturday Review, October 14, 1972; November 11, 1978.
Times Literary Supplement, May 18, 1990, p. 534; July 15, 1994, p. 22.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 11, 1993, p. 3; December 12, 1993, p. 4.
Twentieth Century Literature, April, 1974.
Village Voice, January 22, 1979.
Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1973.
Washington Post Book World, March 16, 1986; June 25, 1989, pp. 4, 6; November 12, 1989, p. 16; April 14, 1991, p. 12; January 26, 1992, p. 12; March 21, 1993, p. 6.
Western American Literature, winter, 2002, review of Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down, p. 325.
World Literature Today, autumn, 1978.
Center for Book Culture, http://www.centerforbookculture.org/ (February 11, 2003), review of The Free-Lance Pallbearers.
Publishers Group West, http://www.pgw.com/ (February 11, 2003), description of From Totems to Hip-Hop.
State University of New York at Buffalo, http://www.math.buffalo.edu/ (November 25, 2003), Mathematics Department, Professor Scott W. Williams, "Ishmael Reed."