Monthly Archives: June 2018

Ishmael Reed Discusses New Novel “Conjugating Hindi” in San Francisco, July 8

Sunday, July 8, 1pm-4pm
San Francisco Public Library’s Koret Auditorium

(This event is free and open to the public)

Before Columbus Foundation Presents
In Association with The African-American Center of The San Francisco Public Library and Justin Desmangles

Ishmael Reed discussing his most recent novel, Conjugating Hindi, new from Dalkey Archive Press.

Program begins with an in-depth conversation featuring special guests Carla Blank and Melanie Masterton Sherazi on the subject of William Demby’s posthumous work, King Comus, which Ms. Sherazi edited and reassembled, published for the first time last year by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company.

RSVP to the event & find details on Facebook:

On Conjugating Hindi:

Chappie Puttbutt has moved to North Oakland, still a mixed neighborhood in a rapidly gentrifying city. In need of money and a boost in profile, he agrees to a series of public debates with the right-wing Indian intellectual Shashi Parmar on the topic, ‘Was Slavery All That Bad’? Content to be paid to play the foil, Chappie’s new job doesn’t last long however. An overseas plane crash ignites political tensions between the US and India, and when a hysterical Congress passes a Fugitive Indian Law soon afterward, Shashi looks to Chappie for refuge.

“One of the most inventive and prolific of contemporary American writers . . . Reed’s prose style resembles the youthful Ali’s ring style. It is unorthodox, brash, yet controlled.” (New York Times)

“His own groundbreaking literary output over six decades, in multiple languages and every form―essays, fiction, poetry, film, even editorial cartoons―has infected a generation of artists.” (The Paris Review)

“Reed’s gift is for the outrageous, for giving vivid expression to cultural controversies very much in the air . . . He is 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.” (New York Review of Books)

On King Comus:
“KING COMUS: REDISCOVERED NOVEL OF THE YEAR” Jeff Biggers writes in the Huffington Post
“Once every decade or so, a classic novel is rediscovered from the heap pile of obscurity, casting new light on an author who has been grievously overlooked, undervalued or simply unpublished.
“Ambitious in scope, epic in its timebend narratives that range from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to World War II in Italy to modern-day neo-slave narratives and black speculative fiction, and absolutely dazzling in its comical clash between debauchery and redemption, William Demby’s posthumously published King Comus is such a novel for our generation.”
“….Demby’s reexamination of the cycles of history, its mythological antecedents, and his role in it, remained his identifiable literary mission—and our incredible joy as readers.”

“While Demby is not as well known today as his friends Richard Wright and Ishmael Reed, the publication of King Comus will surely bring renewed interest to his work and his contribution to both neo-slave narratives and black speculative fiction. As Demby demonstrates, the neo-slave narrative is necessarily speculative since we cannot imagine the conditions of slavery as practiced in the US South. Rather than attempt a realist depiction of slavery in the 19th century, Demby offers a narrative that hinges on our inability to know history in any form. That said, he also suggests that we must continue to write it for ourselves because …. [as one character observes] we don’t belong to ourselves no more; we belong to a larger community with all the responsibilities that entails. “

Resisting Disaster Capitalism in Puerto Rico

On Wednesday, June 6, The Intercept co-hosted “The Battle for Paradise: Resisting Disaster Capitalism in Puerto Rico,” an event focused on how the forces of disaster capitalism are seeking to undermine the Puerto Rican people’s vision for a just and renewable future. Video of the discussion can be seen on The Intercept‘s website:

The event features Naomi Klein alongside various other esteemed scholars and journalists. Klein received the American Book Award in 2015 for This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs The Climate.


Ishmael Reed criticizes media’s racial irresponsibility

Following recent controversy surrounding Roseanne Barr, Reed examines how “The Segregated Media” uses scapegoats to deflect from its own inadequate attempts to address racism. Via Counterpunch

L.A. Weekly covers screening of Ishmael Reed & Bill Gunn’s “Personal Problems”

“Until his untimely death at 54, Bill Gunn was a talent to be reckoned with. A celebrated playwright and screenwriter, he also directed three features, including Personal Problems, a rarely seen 1980 “experimental soap opera” co-written with Ishmael Reed. This epic ensemble piece — running 165 minutes — dissects the African-American experience with a savagely satirical eye. Kino Lorber recently oversaw a digital restoration of this rarely screened indie, which will make its Los Angeles premiere at the Billy Wilder Theater.”

Spanish-language coverage of Ishmael Reed’s trip to Catalonia

Ishmael Reed, founder of Before Columbus Foundation and the American Book Award, has recently traveled to Catalonia, Spain for the First Person Festival and other engagements. Includes discussion of his latest book, Flight to Canada. Coverage from various sources linked below: