Ishmael Reed’s inspired fable of the ragtime era, in which a social movement threatens to suppress the spread of black culture—hailed by Harold Bloom as one of the five hundred greatest books of the Western canon
In 1920s America, a plague is spreading fast. From New Orleans to Chicago to New York, the “Jes Grew” epidemic makes people desperate to dance, overturning social norms in the process. Anyone is vulnerable and when they catch it, they’ll bump and grind into a frenzy. Working to combat the Jes Grew infection are the puritanical Atonists, a group bent on cultivating a “Talking Android,” an African American who will infiltrate the unruly black communities and help crush the outbreak. But PaPa LaBas, a houngan voodoo priest, is determined to keep his ancient culture—including a key spiritual text—alive. Spanning a dizzying host of genres, from cinema to academia to mythology, Mumbo Jumbo is a lively ride through a key decade of American history. In addition to ragtime, blues, and jazz, Reed’s allegory draws on the Harlem Renaissance, the Back to Africa movement, and America’s occupation of Haiti. His style throughout is as avant-garde and vibrant as the music at its center. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Ishmael Reed including rare images of the author.
- Pub Date
- Open Road Integrated Media
“From its title on, Mumbo Jumbo serves as a critique of black and Western literary forms and conventions, and of the complex relationships between the two.” —Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“Part vision, part satire, part farce . . . A wholly original, unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft.” —The New York Times
“Brilliant, phantasmal, eccentric . . . A visionary comic myth.” —The Boston Globe
“A ‘HooDoo’ thriller, an all-out assault on Western civilization . . .” —Saturday Review
“Highly comic . . . abounds with allusions to everything under (and over) the sun.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the author
Ishmael Reed (b. 1938) 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. 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.