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The University of North Alabama Presents Renowned Author Ishmael Reed

Posted: Mar 13, 2012

On Monday, March 19 and Tuesday, March 20, the University of North Alabama (Florence, Alabama) will present its 29th annual Spring Writers' Series. The featured speaker this year is internationally known poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright Ishmael Reed. Reed will speak on Tuesday, March 20, at 12:30 p.m. in the performance center of the Guillot University Center at UNA. A reception and booksigning will follow.

At 11 a. m. on Tuesday in the performance center of GUC , Reed's daughter Tenneesse Reed, a poet and memoirist, will read from her work. Tennessee Reed has published 335 pages of poetry in four collections and currently assists her father by designing his online magazine “Konch.”

As an introduction to Ishmael Reed, Dr. Will Verrone, assistant professor of English, will give a lecture on Ishmael Reed’s work in film and screenwriting on Monday, March 19 at 2 p.m. in the GUC. Dr. Verrone's discussion will focus on Reed’s work in film and television, primarily as a screenwriter and producer. He will discuss Reed's style and thematic concerns and the significance and relevance of his film work in relation to his novels, poetry and essays. The public is invited to attend this event on Monday as well as the readings on Tuesday. All events are free and open to the public.(photo of Ishmael Reed)

Critic and scholar Robert Elliot Fox calls Ishmael Reed "one of the most original and controversial figures in the field of African American letters." Fox goes on to say that in his writing, Reed is "a great improviser, a master of collage with an amazing ability to syncretize seemingly disparate and divergent materials into coherent 'edutainments'--forms of surprise, revelation, and frequent hilarity." He notes that from the start, "Reed's iconoclasm has been aimed not only at the Western tradition, which has attempted to monopolize the world at the expense of other versions of experience, but at the black tradition as well." Reed constantly reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously, and his consistent complaint about militants of all persuasions is that they lack a sense of humor.

Reed, who is a MacArthur recipient and the author of 28 published works was born in 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Shortly after graduation from high school he moved to Buffalo , New York, and in 1962 Reed moved to New York City. Five years later, in 1967, his first novel The Freelance Pallbearers, was published, and that same year, Reed moved to Berkeley, California. He currently resides in Oakland, California.

Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, and a nominee for the Pulitzer Prize, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture and highlighting political and cultural oppression. Reed has received numerous accolades from his contemporaries. Musician Max Roach is said to have called Reed the Charlie Parker of American fiction

Ishmael Reed’s texts and lyrics have been performed, composed or set to music by a host of musicians including Taj Mahal, David Murray, Allen Toussiant, Bobby Womak and many others, and Reed's best known poem entitled "Beware: Do Not Read This Poem" is named by the Gale Research Company as one of the approximately 20 poems that teachers and librarians cite as one of the most frequently studied poems in literature classes across the education curriculum.

For more information about this event, contact Pam Kingsbury at 256-765-4890 or the English Department at 256-765-4238.

----Penne J. Laubenthal

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