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About James McBride
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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
From the author of the National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird and the bestselling modern classic The Color of Water, comes one of the most celebrated novels of the year.
In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and, in front of everybody, shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range.
The reasons for this desperate burst of violence and the consequences that spring from it lie at the heart of Deacon King Kong, James McBride’s funny, moving novel and his first since his National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.
As the story deepens, it becomes clear that the lives of the characters—caught in the tumultuous swirl of 1960s New York—overlap in unexpected ways. When the truth does emerge, McBride shows us that not all secrets are meant to be hidden, that the best way to grow is to face change without fear, and that the seeds of love lie in hope and compassion.
Bringing to these pages both his masterly storytelling skills and his abiding faith in humanity, James McBride has written a novel every bit as involving as The Good Lord Bird and as emotionally honest as The Color of Water. Told with insight and wit, Deacon King Kong demonstrates that love and faith live in all of us.
The modern classic that Oprah.com calls one of the best memoirs of a generation and that launched James McBride’s literary career.
More than two years on The New York Times bestseller list.
Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.
The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.
In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.
At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.
Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.
Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction
From the bestselling author of Deacon King Kong (an Oprah Book Club pick) and The Color of Water comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1856--a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces--when legendary abolitionist John Brown arrives. When an argument between Brown and Henry's master turns violent, Henry is forced to leave town--along with Brown, who believes Henry to be a girl and his good luck charm.
Over the ensuing months, Henry, whom Brown nicknames Little Onion, conceals his true identity to stay alive. Eventually Brown sweeps him into the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859--one of the great catalysts for the Civil War. An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride's meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
In the days before the Civil War, a runaway slave named Liz Spocott breaks free from her captors and escapes into the labyrinthine swamps of Maryland’s eastern shore, setting loose a drama of violence and hope among slave catchers, plantation owners, watermen, runaway slaves, and free blacks. Liz is near death, wracked by disturbing visions of the future, and armed with “the Code,” a fiercely guarded cryptic means of communication for slaves on the run. Liz’s flight and her dreams of tomorrow will thrust all those near her toward a mysterious, redemptive fate.
Filled with rich, true details—much of the story is drawn from historical events—and told in McBride’s signature lyrical style, Song Yet Sung is a story of tragic triumph, violent decisions, and unexpected kindness.
“A pinball machine zinging with sharp dialogue, breathtaking plot twists and naughty humor... McBride at his brave and joyous best.” —New York Times Book Review
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction, Deacon King Kong, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography.
The stories in Five-Carat Soul—none of them ever published before—spring from the place where identity, humanity, and history converge. They’re funny and poignant, insightful and unpredictable, imaginative and authentic—all told with McBride’s unrivaled storytelling skill and meticulous eye for character and detail. McBride explores the ways we learn from the world and the people around us. An antiques dealer discovers that a legendary toy commissioned by Civil War General Robert E. Lee now sits in the home of a black minister in Queens. Five strangers find themselves thrown together and face unexpected judgment. An American president draws inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable. And members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band recount stories from their own messy and hilarious lives.
As McBride did in his National Book award-winning The Good Lord Bird and his bestselling The Color of Water, he writes with humor and insight about how we struggle to understand who we are in a world we don’t fully comprehend. The result is a surprising, perceptive, and evocative collection of stories that is also a moving exploration of our human condition.
James McBride’s powerful memoir, The Color of Water, was a groundbreaking literary phenomenon that transcended racial and religious boundaries, garnering unprecedented acclaim and topping bestseller lists for more than two years. Now McBride turns his extraordinary gift for storytelling to fiction—in a universal tale of courage and redemption inspired by a little-known historic event. In Miracle at St. Anna, toward the end of World War II, four Buffalo Soldiers from the Army’s Negro 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. Risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting, they discover humanity in the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema—in the peasants who shelter them, in the unspoken affection of an orphaned child, in a newfound faith in fellow man. And even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, they—and we—learn to see the small miracles of life.
This acclaimed novel is now a major motion picture directed by Spike Lee.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction, Deacon King Kong, and Five-Carat Soul
Kill ’Em and Leave is more than a book about James Brown. Brown embodied the contradictions of American life: He was an unsettling symbol of the tensions between North and South, black and white, rich and poor. After receiving a tip that promises to uncover the man behind the myth, James McBride goes in search of the “real” James Brown. McBride’s travels take him to forgotten corners of Brown’s never-before-revealed history, illuminating not only our understanding of the immensely troubled, misunderstood, and complicated Godfather of Soul, but the ways in which our cultural heritage has been shaped by Brown’s enduring legacy.
Praise for Kill ’Em and Leave
“A tour de force of cultural reportage.”—The Seattle Times
“Thoughtful and probing.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Masterly . . . powerful.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“McBride provides something lacking in most of the books about James Brown: an intimate feeling for the musician, a veracious if inchoate sense of what it was like to be touched by him. . . . It may be as close [to ‘the real James Brown’] as we’ll ever get.”—David Hajdu, The Nation
“A feat of intrepid journalistic fortitude.”—USA Today
“[McBride is] the biographer of James Brown we’ve all been waiting for. . . . McBride’s true subject is race and poverty in a country that doesn’t want to hear about it, unless compelled by a voice that demands to be heard.”—Boris Kachka, New York
“Illuminating . . . engaging.”—The Washington Post
“A gorgeously written piece of reportage that gives us glimpses of Brown’s genius and contradictions.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
"Godfather", "Mr. Dynamite" und "Da Number One Soul Brother": James Brown war eine der exzentrischsten und wirkmächtigsten Figuren der Popmusik. Doch es gab auch den anderen James Brown, das Kind schwarzer Landarbeiter in den ärmlichen Verhältnissen von Augusta, Georgia. James McBride begibt sich in Interviews mit ehemaligen Bandmitgliedern, Managern und Familienangehörigen auf seine persönliche Suche nach dem Mann hinter dem Mythos James Brown - und nimmt uns mit auf eine Reise durch das ganz andere Amerika: die Südstaaten, Heimat der Unterdrückten, der Magier, Trickster und Gestaltenwandler. Vom Leben des zerrissenen Musikers weitet sich dabei der Blick auf die kulturelle Landschaft einer zutiefst gespaltenen Nation.