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Season 3, Episode 8: Ishmael Reed

Born 85 years ago in Chattanooga, Tenn., Ishmael Reed won the 2022 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award lifetime achievement prize for his six decades of as a poet, novelist, playwright, lyricist, cartoonist, musician and founder of small presses and publications – doing it all with curiosity, bite, and eventually a global reach.

Celebrated as a teacher and for writing such groundbreaking novels “Mumbo Jumbo,” Reed was recognized with a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1998. Last year he dropped a jazz solo album, “The Hands of God” and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His most recent play, “The Conductor,” premiered in New York this spring.

Colson Whitehead, the 2002 A-W winner for fiction, once said, “Some folks dream about being in Harlem during the 20s…I’m sad I didn’t get to hang out in the late 60s Berkeley with Ishmael Reed.”

Reed joined The Asterisk* via Zoom in August 2023 from his home in Oakland, Calif., with his wife and collaborator Carla Blank – who also made a couple of cameos on the episode. Their daughter Tennessee is managing editor of his magazine Konch.

View a transcript of this episode