James McBride is an award-winning writer and composer. His critically
acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water: A Black Man's
Tribute to His White Mother, explores the author's struggle to understand
his biracial identity and the experience of his white, Jewish mother, who moved
to Harlem, married a black man, and raised 12 children. The
Color of Water won the 1997 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Literary
Excellence, was an ALA Notable Book of the Year, and spent more than two years
on the bestseller list. Chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the 25
books of 1996 to remember, The Color of Water has sold more than 1.3
million copies in the United States alone and is now required reading at
numerous colleges and high schools across the country. It has also been
published in 16 languages and in more than 20 countries.
After the success of The Color of Water, McBride turned to fiction, albeit inspired by his family's history. He recalled the war stories of his uncle and cousin, who served in the all-black 92nd Infantry Division, and began researching World War II in Italy -- particularly the clashes between Italian Partisans and the German army. Miracle at St Anna was published in 2002. His next novel, Song Yet Sung, was published in 2008.
McBride is a former staff writer for The Washington Post, People Magazine and The Boston Globe. His work has also appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone and The New York Times. Aside from his literary honors, McBride is the recipient of several awards for his work as a composer in musical theater, including the 1996 American Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award, the 1996 ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons Award, and the American Music Festival's 1993 Stephen Sondheim Award. He has written the score for several musicals, including the highly acclaimed, award-winning show "Bobos."
McBride, an accomplished saxophonist who has toured with renowned jazz singers and musicians, has written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., Gary Burton, Silver Burdett Textbooks, and for the PBS television character "Barney."
James is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
This biography was last updated on 08/15/2013.
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In two separate interviews, James McBride discusses his books Song Yet Sung and The Miracle at St. Anna.
James McBride discusses Song Yet Sung
How would you describe this story?
It's a story about an escaped female slave and the slave catcher bent on catching her. On a deeper level, it's about the web of relationships that existed during slavery.
How closely are the events in Song Yet Sung based on actual history?
The two main women characters Liz Spocott and Patty Cannon, are based on real figures who hail from the eastern shore of Maryland, albeit at different times. Harriet Tubman, the great abolitionist, who was born in Bucktown, MD, and for many years prior to the civil war, she moved up and down Dorchester County like a ghost, leading, at least by some accounts, as many as 300 African Americans to freedom. Historians have yet to agree out how Tubman moved so many people without being caught. She suffered from narcolepsy as a result of having been struck in the head as a child, and she dreamed frequently. She said her dreams often warned her of impending danger. Patty Cannon, of nearby Caroline County, bordering Delaware, was one of the most celebrated women ...
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