Ishmael Reed is an American author, poet, essayist, biographer, journalist, and cultural critic. Both his fiction and non-fiction works are a project of multiculturalism, meant to demonstrate that Black culture is diverse and varied, lampoon the supposed superiority and dominance of white European culture, and criticize the hypocrisy of American society. Reed's "neohoodoo" writing style reflects this, combining a mish-mash of narrative elements and aesthetics into something that is both distinctly African-American and distinctly...something else entirely. His poetry and prose is often surrealist and mind-screwy as a result, but always with a satirical undercurrent.
As a social activist, Reed promotes the literary and artistic efforts of those who come from cultures that are traditionally marginalized in America through his Before Columbus Foundation.
Despite his huge body of work, Ishmael Reed is one of the more obscure American writers, partially due to the niche appeal of his writing style, and partially because the unapologetically pro-black and anti-Western themes of his works narrow his audience quite a bit.
His most famous works include:
- Mumbo Jumbo, a satirical Occult Detective novel revolving around the rise of jazz in the 1920s.
- The Last Days of Louisiana Red, a sequel of sorts to Mumbo Jumbo set in the 1960s, satirizing the 60s drug culture and sexual liberation movement.
- Yellow Back Radio Broke Down, a parody of The Western featuring a hoodoo-practicing Black cowboy, The Loop Garoo Kid.
- The Complete Muhammad Ali, a collection of interviews and essays that serves as a comprehensive biography of Muhammad Ali