Mumbo Jumbo (Paperback)

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Mumbo Jumbo By Ishmael Reed Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Capital-a Absurd story about an epidemic called “Jes Grew” — an anti plague that enlivens the host with an uncontrollable joy, and thus threatens the West, ie, means the End of Civilization As-We-Know-It. Attempts are made to combat this Creeping Thing with modern medicine, hoodoo, an Android saboteur, and an ancient secret fraternity committed to the occident. A formally exciting novel coming from a singular voice in American letters.

— Tilghman

“Poems are bullshit unless they are / teeth…” announced Amiri Baraka in 1965. Seven years later, Ishmael Reed produced a novel made of daggers, aimed right at the throats of white supremacy, Western chauvinism, and the imperial museum. The crucial precursor to The Sellout, Citizen, and Fairview, this mixed-media satirical epic is an explosive, exhilarating, blistering critique that manages to be terrifically entertaining along the way.

— Jack K


The classic freewheeling look at race relations through the ages.

Mumbo Jumbo is Ishmael Reed’s brilliantly satiric deconstruction of Western civilization, a racy and uproarious commentary on our society. In it, Reed, one of our preeminent African American authors, mixes portraits of historical figures and fictional characters with sound bites on subjects ranging from ragtime to Greek philosophy. Cited by literary critic Harold Bloom as one of the five hundred most significant books in the Western canon, Mumbo Jumbo is a trenchant and often biting look at black-white relations throughout history, from a keen observer of our culture.

About the Author

Ishmael Reed is the author of over twenty-five books including Mumbo JumboYellow Back Radio Broke-Down, Conjugating Hindi, Why No Confederate Statues in Mexico and most recently Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues and The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is also a publisher, television producer, songwriter, radio and television commentator, lecturer, and has long been devoted to exploring an alternative black aesthetic: the trickster tradition, or Neo-Hoodooism. A regular contributor to CounterPunch and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley for over thirty years, retiring in 2005. Reed is the only person to be nominated for the National Book Award in two categories in the same year.

Praise For…

“Brilliantly idiosyncratic… For half a century, Ishmael Reed has been American literature’s most fearless satirist.”
The New Yorker

"Part vision, part satire, part farce...A wholly original, unholy cross between the craft of fiction and witchcraft."
The New York Times


"A dazzling classic ... exhilarating ... like jazz, the novel feels improvisatory and ambitious [...] It is a funny book about conspiracy theories that nonetheless feels serious and true. A philosophical and ingenious American race satire."

"From its title on, Mumbo Jumbo serves as a critique of black and Western literary forms and conventions, and of the complex relationships between the two."
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Author of The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song

"Brilliant, phantasmal, eccentric...A visionary comic myth."
The Boston Globe 

"A 'HooDoo' thriller, an all-out assault on Western civilization...Reed's best novel."
The Saturday Review 

"A great writer."
James Baldwin 
Product Details
ISBN: 9780684824772
ISBN-10: 0684824779
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 11th, 1996
Pages: 224
Language: English
Series: Scribner Paperback Fiction