The Color of Water (1997) is the bestselling memoir of James McBride, a biracial journalist, jazz saxophonist, and composer whose Jewish mother gave birth to twelve children, all of whom she raised in a housing project in Brooklyn. His mother...
James McBride was born in 1957, the eighth of twelve children. In his critically acclaimed, bestselling memoir The Color of Water (1997), he tells the story of a childhood spent with his Jewish mother. McBride was raised in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing projects, and received a degree in music composition from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, in Ohio. Upon graduation, he pursued a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.
During his twenties, McBride was a staff writer with the Boston Globe, People magazine, and The Washington Post. His writing has also appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. He quit his position as a feature writer at The Washington Post at the age of thirty in order to dedicate himself to a music career in New York, and composed 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. In addition to composing music, McBride plays the tenor sax.
In 1997, Riverhead published McBride's bestselling memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. This story of the author's struggle to come to terms with his biracial identity, his Jewish' mother's history, and the general context of race relations in America has been translated into sixteen languages worldwide. 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, McBride published his first fictional novel, Miracle at St. Anna, a story about the friendship between a black American soldier fighting in Italy during World War II and an Italian orphan child. McBride is currently a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University, and lives in South Nyack, New York, with his wife and two daughters.
Study Guides on Works by James McBride
James McBride's Deacon King Kong was first published in March 2020 by Riverhead Books. The novel, which is set in Brooklyn, New York in 1969, tells the story of an old church deacon who is known as Sportcoat. One day, Sportcoat takes a gun out of...