Spike Lee
Finding the Story and Forcing the Issue
by Jason P. Vest
September 2014, 350pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39226-9
$64, £48, 54€, A92
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39227-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Among Spike Lee’s many achievements is directing a Broadway show.

Spike Lee's journey from guerrilla filmmaker to Hollywood insider is explored in light of his personal background, the cultural influence of his films, and the extensive scholarship his movies have inspired.

This insightful study probes the iconic filmmaker’s career as a director and shaper of American culture. It not only sheds light on the ways in which Lee’s background, influences, and outlook affect his films but also discusses how he participates in, transforms, and transcends the tradition of black American filmmaking.

Each chapter offers a critical assessment of at least one, and sometimes multiple, Lee films, examining their production history; their place in Lee’s filmography; and their aesthetic, cultural, and historical significance. Readers will come away from this first scholarly assessment of Lee’s career and work with a better understanding of his penchant for stirring up controversy about significant social, political, and artistic issues as well as his role as an American artist who provokes his audiences as much as he pacifies them.


  • Examines the full range of Lee's career, including the five film books he authored or coauthored, his feature films, his television projects, and his documentaries
  • Offers a comprehensive, scholarly analysis of how, as both an American and African American filmmaker, Lee tells stories that might otherwise have remained untold on American movie screens
  • Analyzes Lee's place in a rich tradition of African American filmmaking that includes Oscar Micheaux, Gordon Parks, Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, and John Singleton
  • Discusses the influence directors such as Martin Scorsese and Melvin Van Peebles have had on Lee
  • Reveals how Lee's films expose little-known aspects of American social issues, historical events, and public figures
Jason P. Vest, PhD, is associate professor of English at the University of Guam. His published works include ABC-CLIO's Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies and The Wire, Deadwood, Homicide, and NYPD Blue: Violence is Power as well as The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick.


"Vest . . . provides an exhaustive study of Spike Lee's dramatic films and documentaries. He works into his commentary his own insightful comments on Lee and carefully cites an incredible number of critics’ opinions, their disagreements with each other, and his commentary on them–blending this mass of information in a way that is readable and remarkably clear. . . . The book's scholarly apparatus is impressive. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. All readers."—Choice, March 1, 2015
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