Although Oakland is often overshadowed by San Francisco, its neighbor across the Bay, it is an American wonder. The city is surrounded by natural beauty; its architecture mirrors its history as a Spanish mission, Gold Rush outpost, and early twentieth century home of the West's biggest robber barons. Today, Oakland may be most famous for its diverse communities of immigrants (in one district alone, more than two hundred languages are spoken) political radicals, and utopians.
©2003 Ishmael Reed; (P)2003 Books on Tape, Inc.
"Reed, novelist, poet, and longtime Oakland resident, offers an eclectic look at the multicultural city that thrives in the shadow of the better known and celebrated San Francisco....Reed offers a historic overview as well as acerbic commentary on the political and cultural scene of Oakland." (Booklist)
I did not approach Mr. Reed's book ignorant of his POV having read his first book, Freelance Pallbearers, more than 30 years ago, but I expected this book about Oakland to be a little more balanced. I was wrong. Mind you, I am not insensitive to the challenges cities such as Oakland face having been born and raised in Detroit and worked and still do business in Oakland, but come on. This book ascribes value to contributions made to the city based on the color of one's skin... white bad, everyone else good. There isn't a page Mr. Reed fails to bash Mayor of Oakland and former Governor of California, Jerry Brown, arguably one of the most liberal, progressive politicians in the last quarter century. He even makes derogatory comments about Jerry Brown's physical appearance. A large portion of the book is spent glorifying the history of the Black Panthers and ends with a verbatim bus tour narration of historical Black Panther Party sites with heated 60's rhetoric intact. The Oakland I know is one of the most multiethnic, diverse, racially tolerant cities in the US. The City of Oakland has evolved beyond the racially polarized city depicted in this book.
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