MULTI-AMERICA by Ishmael Reed


Essays on Cultural Wars and Cultural Peace
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 Who's afraid of hyphenated Americans? Certainly not literary- gumbo mixmaster Reed, the presiding intelligence of a lively anthology brimming with contrarian ideas and not a little polemic on the nature of American culture. In his introduction, Reed, a novelist (Japanese by Spring, 1993, etc.), poet, and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, positions this book as ``an intellectual anti-trust action against the tyranny that communications oligopolies hold over the public discussion.'' He further identifies the adversaries as ``white monoculturalists'' and ``public McIntellectuals'' and ``their black and brown Talented Tenth auxiliary [who] insist that we embrace a common culture, and their consensus seems to be that this culture is Yankee or Anglo.'' Reed's conspiratorial whispers aside, the book collects an exhilarating mix of unpredictable points of view. The more than 50 contributors include a number of ``New White intellectuals,'' who take the vanguard position that Americans of European descent who embrace an identity as members of an undifferentiated white tribe invariably suffer the spiritual consequences of profound cultural dislocation. There are also pieces from black cultural nationalists, Afrocentrists, and a black lesbian feminist, Latino sojourners, Asian-American iconoclasts, and Chicana metaphysicists, and writers of mixed heritage (``Black and Jewish Like Jesus and Me''). Many offer startlingly fresh perspectives on ethnic conflict and the false promises and perils of assimilation. Some essays are more determinedly idiosyncratic than illuminating, but a sample of the strongest commentary includes Rudolfo Anaya (``New World Man''), Elaine H. Kim (``Asian Americans: Decorative Gatekeepers?''), Michael E. Ross (``Black Male Perp: Interview with the Bogeyman''), and Leslie Marmon Silko (``The Border Patrol State''). There's nothing neat about this anthology's crazy-quilt vision of America. It's generally contentious, sometimes confusing- -including some nonsense and noise--but there's real vitality in the chaos.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-86753-5
Page count: 458pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997


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