James McBride Biography

(American Writer and Musician)

Birthday: September 11, 1957 (Virgo)

Born In: New York City, New York, US

An American musician and writer, James McBride is synonymous to creativity and inventiveness. His ingenious pursuits and artistic endeavours have led him to become a renowned name in America and beyond. What distinguishes McBride is that his creative gifts are not limited to the field of literature and extends beyond the boundaries. McBride is equally famous for his literary output as he is for his musical accomplishments. He first attained fame for his debut literary issue, ‘The Colors of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother’. The title of the novel was self-explanatory as it gave a deep insight about the life of McBride, his White mother and the biracial identity that he grew up with. He has touched various genres of literature, be it fiction, non-fiction or comedy. Literary career apart, he is an accomplished musician, composer and jazz saxophonist who has toured with various established and well-reputed musicians and jazz artists. Read further to know more interesting and intriguing facts about James McBride.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: James McBride

Age: 66 Years, 66 Year Old Males


father: Andrew D. McBride

mother: Ruth McBride Jordan

siblings: Billy McBride, Dennis McBride

children: Azure McBride, Jordan McBride, Nash McBride

Born Country: United States

Quotes By James McBride Writers

Height: 6'4" (193 cm), 6'4" Males

City: New York City

U.S. State: New Yorkers

More Facts

education: Oberlin College, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Columbia University

awards: 1997 - Stephen Sondheim Award
1996 - Richard Rodgers Award
1996 - ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons Award

  • 1

    What inspired James McBride to write his book "The Color of Water?"

    James McBride was inspired to write "The Color of Water" by his desire to explore his mother's life story and their complex relationship.

  • 2

    How did James McBride's background influence his writing?

    James McBride's biracial background and experiences growing up in a diverse community greatly influenced his writing, shaping his perspectives on race, identity, and culture.

  • 3

    What themes are commonly explored in James McBride's works?

    Common themes in James McBride's works include race relations, family dynamics, identity, history, and the complexities of human relationships.

  • 4

    How does James McBride use music in his writing?

    James McBride often incorporates music into his writing, drawing on his background as a musician to infuse his stories with rhythm, emotion, and cultural references.

  • 5

    What impact has James McBride had on the literary world?

    James McBride has made a significant impact on the literary world through his unique voice, compelling storytelling, and insightful exploration of complex themes such as race, identity, and family.

Childhood & Early Life
James McBride was born to Rev. Andrew D. McBride and Ruth McBride in New York City, New York. While his father was an African American, his mother was a Jewish immigrant from Poland.
Even before his birth, his father passed away due to cancer. Young James was the eight and the last child of the couple. His mother later remarried Hunter Jordan with whom she had four more children.
At the age of 14, his stepfather passed away. This caused a major emotional stress for both him and his mother. In th realm of his grief, he indulged in erroneous activities like shoplifting, using drugs, drinking alcohol and so on.
Unlike his brothers, Dennis and Billy who attained doctorate degree in medicine, he was not interested in the same and instead enrolled at the Oberlin College to receive an undergraduate degree in music composition in 1979. It was there that he eventually regained his original self.
Post completing his graduate studies, he studied at the Columbia School of Journalism to attain a master’s degree in journalism.
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Upon concluding his formal studies, he took up the position of a staff writer in well-known and established publication houses including, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the Wilmington News Journal and People Magazine.
Furthermore, he started writing pieces for Rolling Stone magazine, Essence and The New York Times. He also contributed writing materials to the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and US magazines.
It was while pursuing his journalist career that he came up with a memoir, ‘The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother’ which was published in 1996. The book provided detailed information about his life in an African-American household and his effort to come to terms with the biracial identity.
The memoir was widely accepted and became a bestseller. What’s more, it remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for two years and has been translated in more than sixteen languages with record sales of 2.5 million copies. The book has become an American classic and is widely read in schools, colleges and universities.
Post the raving success of his debut venture, in 2002, he turned to fiction and came up with his first fictional novel, ‘Miracle at St Anna’. With World War II as the backdrop, the novel provided a detailed account of the history of the African-American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign
The highlight of the book, ‘Miracle at St Anna’ was the relationship that a black American soldier shared with an Italian orphan child. Six years later, the book was adapted into a movie of the same name under Spike Lee direction.
While continuing his life as a writer, he did not let go off his musical aspirations completely. He instead served as an accomplished saxophonist and toured with renowned jazz singers and musicians such as Little Jimmy Scott.
He wrote lyrics for established musicians like Anita baker, Grover Washington Jr., Pura Fe, and Gary Burton. He even owned his own band that played an eclectic blend of music.
He composed the theme music for the Clint Harding Network, Jonathan Demme's New Orlean's Documentary, Right to Return, and the Off-Broadway musical Bobos written by playwright Ed Shockley.
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In 2005, he published and released the first volume of the documentary, ‘The Process’ which provided details about his life as a low-profile jazz musician.
Three years later, he came up with his second fictional novel, ‘Song Yet Sung’. The novel was basically written with Harriet Tubman as its inspiration. It was based on real-life events that occurred on Maryland Eastern Shore with Patty Cannon as its villain.
The main plot of the novel, ‘Songs Yet Sung’ revolved around an enslaved woman and her dreams in which a fictional code of communication was used to free the enslaved blacks.
In 2012, he collaborated with director Spike Lee to come up with the film, ‘Red Hook Summer’. He co-wrote the film and served as its co-producer.
Year 2013 witnessed the release of his latest novel, based on the genre of comedy, ‘The Good Lord Bird’. The book, published under Riverhead Books, was about the life of notorious abolitionist John Brown. Same year, he co-authored the work, ‘Hard Listening’.
He is a charter member of the Clint Harding Network, a group of well-known journalists, writers and musicians who have periodically appeared live on a Missouri radio program for the last two decades.
Presently, he is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.
Awards & Achievements
Over his lifetime, he has received numerous awards for both a career in writing and music. Some of them include the American Arts and Letters Richard Rogers Award, the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons Award, and the American Music Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award. Other than these, he has several honorary doctorates.
In 2013, his comic literary venture, ‘The Good Lord Bird’ won him a National Book Award.
Personal Life & Legacy
Not much is known about his personal life except for the fact that he is married and has three children. He lives between New York City and Lambertville, New Jersey.
Facts About James McBride

James McBride is not only a talented writer, but also an accomplished musician who plays the saxophone. He has even performed alongside legendary musicians such as James Brown and Bob Dylan.

In addition to his literary achievements, McBride is also a graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, showcasing his diverse range of talents and interests.

McBride's novel "The Good Lord Bird" won the prestigious National Book Award for Fiction in 2013, cementing his status as a respected and acclaimed author in the literary world.

As a dedicated advocate for racial equality and social justice, McBride uses his platform to address important issues and promote positive change through his writing and public speaking engagements.

Despite his success, McBride remains humble and grounded, often speaking about the importance of staying true to oneself and never losing sight of one's roots.

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