Novelist, poet, playwright, songwriter, essayist, activist and MacArthur genius, Ishmael Reed has been a major figure in American letters for the past four decades. His ground-breaking literary output has inspired generations of artists and writers - from Thomas Pynchon, Paul Beatty, and Colson Whitehead, to 2pac, George Clinton and David Murray - and he is widely recognized as one of the great American writers. Reed was born in 1938. He grew up in working-class neighbourhoods in Buffalo, New York, attended Buffalo public schools, and the University of Buffalo. He taught at Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and, for thirty-five years, at the University of California Berkeley. He lives in Oakland, California, where he teaches at the California College of the Arts.