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Blues City: A Walk in Oakland (Crown Journeys Series)

3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  110 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Oakland is a blues city, brawling and husky . . .

Often overshadowed by San Francisco, its twinkling sister city across the Bay, Oakland is itself an American wonder. The city is surrounded by and filled with natural beauty—mountains and hills and lakes and a bay—and architecture that mirrors its history as a Spanish mission, Gold Rush outpost, and home of the West’s most d
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 21st 2003 by Crown (first published 2003)
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Jan 18, 2009 Jan rated it it was ok
While Reed's subject was intrinsically interesting to me as a resident of Oakland, his prose was lousy. The sentences were poorly constructed, poorly edited, poorly copy-edited, and poorly proofread. At times, it felt like I was being read to directly from the tour literature he had picked up on his visits to landmarks. Not all of this is Reed's fault. Clearly his editor was asleep at the switch.

Furthermore, I found the personality of the narrator as it came through the book distinctly irritati
Jan 08, 2017 Kat rated it really liked it
I knew that I had so much to learn about my town and Ishmael Reed's history of Oakland did not disappoint. Since it is told quite subjectively from a 2003 lens - Reed has a lot of criticism of Mayor Jerry Brown & company's push for real estate and downtown development - it is interesting to think about how this has played out since the book was written.
Jan 26, 2010 Phillip rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
a great read and most informative for anyone interested in oakland. wow - i'll never look at peralta street again without cringing. Lots of interesting history about the notorious formation of oakland as a township, staggering facts about california's native american genocide campaigns, jack london's favorite bar (which still stands on the waterfront) and more.
Frank Terry
Oct 25, 2014 Frank Terry rated it it was ok
At this point, I don't remember quite why I started getting interested in Ishmael Reed, but a couple days ago I started getting interested in Ishmael Reed. I remember there were a few classes that studied him at Iowa but I never took them.

So, I started looking around at what different books of his were available and thought this one might be a good introduction to his voice and style.

There were a lot of really interesting things in this book. The really brief sections and history different peo
Stuart Woolf
Jan 26, 2014 Stuart Woolf rated it liked it
I bought this book with the intention of learning more about my adopted city. (Beth Bagwell's Oakland: The Story of a City was the text recommended to me, but it did not cover any developments since 1982. This is disappointing, considering how crack, the earthquake, and gentrification / urban renewal continue to shape life in my West Oakland neighborhood.) I give Ishmael Reed's book three stars because I did learn some things, but, like many other reviewers have said, one gets the sense the bo ...more
Sep 05, 2007 Joel rated it really liked it
An opinionated snapshot of Oakland during the Jerry Brown years, Ishmael Reed's Blues City captures the culture, politics , and history of a city typically overshadowed by it's neighbor to the west. Reed's notes will find resonance with anyone who has loved a city or a neighborhood and his inclusion of accounts of groups as disparate as the Californios and the Black Panthers make for a fascinating read. Reed also spends much of his time lamenting the transformation of Jerry Brown and his policie ...more
Sep 09, 2011 Chuck rated it liked it
Blues City paints a literary portrait of Oakland, California at the turn of the millennium. Using accounts of cultural events, neighborhood excursions, and interviews with cultural figures and politicians, Ishmael Reed takes a broad view of the city, one that runs from the time of European conquest to the year of the book's publication (2003). In a breezy, conversational style, he reveals that Oakland has been the site of continuous conflict between white elites and egalitarian, community orient ...more
Dec 21, 2016 itpdx rated it liked it
I found this book on a list of books that Every White Ally Should Read. I was intrigued because I lived in the Bay Area for awhile.
This is a meandering account of Ishmael Reed exploring the history and culture of Oakland based on a year of experiences and research. Reed drops a lot of interesting tidbits about the history of Oakland and the part racism has played in it. This was published in 2005 and talks about the gentrification that was going on at the time (which I am sure has accelerated s
Mar 19, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: california
As a new resident of Oakland this book jumped out at me while browsing at Pegasus and it did not disappoint. These series, Crown Journeys, features writers touring their hometowns (or places close to their hearts) and I've read some of them before out of interest in the author or the place. But reading this guide to my new chosen home was really exciting. Ishmael Reed visits many public festivals & events, many thrown in conjunction with Oakland's 150th anniversary in 2002. He explores Calif ...more
Lolo S.
Jan 20, 2013 Lolo S. rated it did not like it
This is the most depressing book I've read in a while. The first disappointment was that the book is incredibly poorly edited- sloppy sentences, and pages upon pages of tour-guide quotations which added little to the pastiche Ishmael Reed was attempting to develop.

Even more disheartening was Reed's portrayal of Oakland. He chooses to focus on the negative aspects of the city and its cultural heritage. From his vantage point, he comes off as a pretentious know-it-all, name-dropping lawmakers wit
Jun 09, 2015 Anita rated it really liked it
Starts & ends as a walking tour of Oakland, gets waylaid in the middle by a lot of angry monologging about the harm that Jerry Brown was causing the Town at that point in time (circa 2002-2003) and the author's thoughts on the Iraq war, and labor issues (among other disparate topics.) I appreciated many of Reed's viewpoints, tho I am likely symptomatic of the type of Oakland gentrification he is so frustrated with. Perhaps it's this latter aspect of my self that grew impatient with the numbe ...more
May 26, 2008 Ben rated it really liked it
In my opinion this started out a bit awkwardly, but when Reed gets going it really takes off. Having volunteered for Wilson Riles Jr's campaign against the contemptible Jerry Brown (quoting Noam Chomsky on his radio show before running for Mayor as a progressive, then changing spots to pro-development, anti-social program strongman when elected), the section on said campaign was tough to read, but I'm glad it's there.

I especially liked the oral history of blues preservationists in the second ha
Jun 20, 2012 Marissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
As a new resident of Oakland, I was glad to stumble upon this snappy guide, which is a great reference to learn a bit about the city's history and different neighborhoods. I liked Reed's blending of political, cultural, and historical information and felt like it was a perfect introduction to the area.
Mar 21, 2014 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Really interesting to hear the history of things like Preservation Park, Pardee House, Black Panthers, Chabot Space and Science Center, etc. It was written a few years ago, and with Jerry Brown gone as the mayor twice-over, I'd love an epilogue to hear what Reed thinks of the current Oakland and its future.
Apr 25, 2012 Julayne rated it really liked it
Spirited overview of Oakland's history and a celebration of its diversity. Takes you from pre-colonization when Lake Merritt was still connected to the SF Bay and salmon ran in the Temescal and San Leandro creeks to Spanish mission times to the Gold rush to its haven as a resort town for city dwellers from SF through to the "gold rush" of the internet boom to present day. Great read!
Mar 03, 2009 Derek rated it liked it
I love both Oakland and Ishmael Reed. I used to see him around town a lot, which was always cool.

This book is worth reading but not especially great or illuminating. However, if you don't happen to know a whole lot about Oakland before reading, you will get more out of this bk than I did.
Jul 05, 2012 Sam rated it it was ok
This is an insightful book about Oakland, but it has an ax to grind that isn't always on point. Well worth it for me as someone has returned to the Bay Area after a long time in the middle of the US--a good review/getting to know the social/political fabric of the area.
Andromeda M31
Jan 04, 2014 Andromeda M31 rated it really liked it
I moved to Oakland a few months ago and I had been trying to find a decent book on the history and current state of the city. I stumbled unto Blues City in one of the used book stores on Piedmont. Glad I did.
Mar 30, 2016 Marcos rated it really liked it
A beautiful, spare travelogue, a valentine to a city that has gone through racial divide and transformations over the last 150 years. It's really quite good.
Jan 31, 2008 Isaac rated it liked it
These "City Walks" books are great if you have a few days to spend reading them and walking around the place. Ishmael Reed is a great writer and he does a good introduction to Oakland's history
Victor J. Leonard, Jr.
Victor J. Leonard, Jr. rated it it was amazing
Sep 10, 2007
John  Ervin
John Ervin rated it it was amazing
Jan 07, 2010
Lisa rated it really liked it
Jan 30, 2017
Alisen rated it really liked it
Mar 28, 2016
Jesse rated it liked it
Dec 15, 2011
Sarah rated it it was amazing
Jan 16, 2008
Michael Williams
Michael Williams rated it really liked it
Oct 06, 2012
Larry-bob Roberts
Jan 16, 2009 Larry-bob Roberts marked it as to-read
So Google Books little snippet seems to indicate he mentions Homo hop performers and drag kings.
Adam rated it really liked it
Apr 28, 2016
Andrew rated it liked it
Feb 10, 2015
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Ishmael Scott Reed is an American poet, essayist, and novelist. A prominent African-American literary figure, Reed is known for his satirical works challenging American political culture, and highlighting political and cultural oppression.

Reed has been described as one of the most controversial writers. While his work has often sought to represent neglected African and African-American perspective
More about Ishmael Reed...

Other Books in the Series

Crown Journeys Series (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon
  • Land's End: A Walk in Provincetown
  • After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
  • City of the Soul: A Walk in Rome
  • Washington Schlepped Here: Walking in the Nation's Capital
  • Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg (Crown Journeys)
  • Lost in My Own Backyard: A Walk in Yellowstone National Park (Crown Journeys)
  • Time and Tide: A Walk Through Nantucket (Crown Journeys)
  • Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago
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