(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

God Made Alaska for the Indians, a collection of essays by Ishmael Reed, is a short book, but it manages to pack into its 130 pages many of the widely varied interests of one of the most interesting multicultural figures on the American literary scene. Reed is primarily thought of as an African American writer, but he is also much aware of his Native American ancestry. This dual viewpoint informs the title essay, a lengthy account of political and legal conflicts over the use of Alaskan lands. Reed sympathizes with the Sitka Tlingit Indians, but he realizes that the question is complicated, with other tribes opposing them.

Reed is, as always, critical of the white establishment, and he demonstrates that supposedly benign conservationist forces such as the Sierra Club can be as uncaring of the interests and customs of the indigenous population as any profit-maddened capitalist corporation. An afterword informs the reader that the Sitka Tlingits finally won.

“The Fourth Ali” covers the second fight between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks, late in Ali’s career. There is little description of the actual fight, and one learns little more than that Ali won. Reed emphasizes the fight as spectacle, describing the followers, the hangers-on, and Ali’s near-mythic role.

In the brief “How Not to Get the Infidel to Talk the King’s Talk,” Reed demolishes the theory that the supposed linguistic flaws of Black English keep...

(The entire section is 417 words.)


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Suggested Readings

Clark, Tom. The Great Naropa Poetry Wars. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Cadmus, 1980.

Martin, Reginald. Ishmael Reed and the New Black Critics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.