In the spirit of Black History Month and in anticipation of the digital release of our Ishmael Reed ebook collection (launching tomorrow), we're pleased to feature this photograph of acclaimed authors Ishmael Reed and Toni Morrison. They're shown having breakfast at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, in December 2004.
Reed is an acclaimed multifaceted writer whose work often engages with overlooked aspects of the American experience. He has published ten novels, including Flight to Canada and Mumbo Jumbo, as well as plays and collections of essays and poetry.
Reed’s prolific output is unified by an interest in African American life and its wider relationships to American society. His work at times deploys parody and biting satire, using these to dissect repressively Eurocentric narratives of history and culture, and to critique dogma of all kinds. Advocating for a fully inclusive art, and marked by stylistic variety and playfulness, Reed’s work is sometimes described as postmodern. Its humor, however, is married to a passionate candor about history and social issues.
He was nominated for a National Book Award in both poetry and prose in 1972. Conjure (1972), a volume of poetry, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and his New and Collected Poems: 1964–2006 (2007) received a Gold Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California. Reed has also received a Lila Wallace–Reader’s Digest Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Blues Song Writer of the Year award from the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame, a Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the National Institute for Arts and Letters, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Reed taught at the University of California, Berkeley, for thirty-five years and currently lives in Oakland, California.
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Reed