James McBride (writer)

James McBride (writer)

James McBride (born 1957) is an American writer and musician whose compositions have been recorded by a variety of other musicians.

Early life

McBride's father, the late Rev. Andrew D. McBride, was African-American, and his mother (Rachel Shilsky later changed to Ruth McBride) was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. He was raised in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing projects, the eighth of 12 children. "I'm proud of my Jewish history," he has said. "Technically I guess you could say I'm Jewish since my mother was Jewish...but she converted (to Christianity). So the question is for theologians to answer. ... I just get up in the morning happy to be living." His book "The Color of Water" talks about his family history and his mother.

Two of his older brothers, Dennis and Billy, graduated with doctorates in medicine, but that didn't appeal to McBride. James McBride is a graduate in music composition from Oberlin College, and received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University when he was 22 years old.

Journalism career

As a journalist, he was on the staffs of many well-known publications, including "The Boston Globe", "The Washington Post", the Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal, and "People" magazine. He has written pieces for "Rolling Stone" magazine, "Us" magazine, the "Chicago Tribune", "The Philadelphia Inquirer", "Essence", "The New York Times", and others. Mr. McBride is a charter member of the Clint Harding Network, a group of well-known journalists, writers and musicians who periodically have appeared live on a Missouri radio program for the last two decades.


McBride is best-known for his 1996 memoir, the bestselling "The Color of Water", which describes his life growing up in a large, poor African American family led by a white, religious, and strict Jewish mother, whose father was an Orthodox rabbi who converted, and became devoutly Christian during her first marriage to Andrew McBride.

"I thought it would be received well in the black community but it's sold much better in the white Jewish community," he said. "Most of my readers are middle-age, white, Jewish women...." [ [] ]

The memoir spent over two years on "The New York Times" bestseller list, and now appears on high school and university course lists across America.

In 2003, he published a novel, "Miracle at St. Anna", drawing on the history of the overwhelmingly African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign from mid-1944 to April 1945.The book is now a movie, Miracle at St. Anna, directed by Spike Lee, released on September 26, 2008.

In 2005, he published the first volume of "The Process", a CD-based documentary about life as lived by low-profile jazz musicians.

In 2008, McBride uses the notorious criminal Patty Cannon as a villain in his novel "Song Yet Sung".

axophonist & composer

He is the tenor saxophonist in the Rock Bottom Remainders.

He has written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Purafe, and Gary Burton. [ [] ]

McBride was awarded the 1993 American Music Festival’s Stephen Sondheim Award, the 1996 American Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award, and the 1996 ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons Award.

McBride is the composer-performer of the Clint Harding Network's theme music.


McBride is currently a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University.


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