Poet, essayist, playwright, and novelist Ishmael Reed was born in 1938 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was raised in Buffalo, New York, and attended the University of New York at Buffalo.
He is the author of several collections of poetry, including: New and Collected Poems 1964-2007 (Da Capo Press, 2007), which won the Gold Medal in poetry at the California Book Awards; New and Collected Poems (Atheneum, 1988); A Secretary to the Spirits (NOK, 1978); Chattanooga (Random House, 1973); Conjure (1972); and Catechism of D Neoamerican HooDoo Church (Paul Brennan, 1970).
Reed has also written numerous novels, including: Juice! (2011); Japanese by Spring (1993); The Terrible Twos (1982); Flight to Canada (1976); The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974); Yellow Back Radio Broke Down (1969); and The Free-Lance Pallbearers.
Among his plays are The Final Version (2013), Mother Hubbard (1982), and The Ace Boons (1980). He is also the author of collections of essays: Airing Dirty Laundry (1993); Writin' is Fightin': Thirty-Seven Years of Boxing on Paper (1988); God Made Alaska for the Indians: Selected Essays (1982), and Shrovetide in Old New Orleans (1978).
Reed was a cofounder of Yardbird Publishing Co. in 1971 and also founded Reed, Cannon, and Johnson Communications in 1973. With Al Young, he co founded Quilt magazine. Reed has also edited a number of anthologies.
Among his honors and awards are the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, a Guggenheim Foundation Award, the Lewis Michaux Award, an American Civil Liberties award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the California Arts Council. In 1998, Reed became a MacArthur Fellow. He is a two-time National Book Award nominee, and his book Conjure was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Reed has lectured at numerous colleges and universities. He served as a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley for thirty-five years. Ishmael Reed lives in Oakland, California.