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

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  83 ratings  ·  19 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
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Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 21st 2003 by Crown (first published 2003)
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Blues City by Ishmael ReedInfinite City by Rebecca SolnitThe Salty Dog by Debbie   WhiteCalifornia Fire and Life by Don WinslowWhere I Was From by Joan Didion
California Newbie
1st out of 27 books — 21 voters
The Color Purple by Alice WalkerI Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya AngelouBeloved by Toni MorrisonInvisible Man by Ralph EllisonThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Black History Month
293rd out of 372 books — 358 voters


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Community Reviews

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Jan
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
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Phillip
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
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
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Stuart Woolf
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
Joel
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
Anita
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
Chuck
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
Lolo S.
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
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Holly
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
Ben
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
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Julayne
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!
Andromeda M31
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.
Marissa
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.
Derek
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.
Sam
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.
Isaac
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
Chris
Decent introduction to political and cultural elements of the city. Good gift for a new resident.
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.
Anna
A very extreme non-fiction view from a well respected author.
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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
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More about Ishmael Reed...

Other Books in the Series

Crown Journeys Series (1 - 10 of 15 books)
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