James McBride
Author and Musician

The Color Of Water

This fascinating, superbly written memoir was a New York Times bestseller for two years.  To date it has sold  sold more than 2.1 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 16 languages. It tells the story of James McBride and his white, Jewish mother Ruth. Ruth was born in Poland and raised in Suffolk, Va, the daughter of an itinerant rabbi and a loving, disabled mother who spoke no English. At 17, Ruth fled the  South, landed in Harlem, married a black man in 1941, founded a church, was twice widowed and raised 12 children in New York City. Despite hardship, poverty, and suffering, Ruth sent all 12 of her children to college.

Lavishly praised by critics, embraced by millions of readers, this tribute to a remarkable woman helped set the standard for modern day memoir writing.   It is considered an American classic and is required reading in high schools and colleges across America. It is a perennial favorite of book clubs and community-wide reading events, including New York City and Philadelphia. IBut most importantly, it is an eloquent, touching exploration of what family really means.

James was working as a tenor sax sideman with jazz legend Jimmy Scott when he penned this book, which was written in hotel rooms, vans, airports, libraries and on buses.  Previously he served for eight years as a journalist. He was a feature writer in the Style Section at The Washington Post when, at age 30, he quit the Post, moved to New to play jazz, and subsequently starved.  He slept on mattresses played in blues bands, taught ESL to Polish refugees, and played "every kind of gig you can name -- weddings, bars, dances, clubs," he says.   While struggling through self-described "unsettled angst," James realized that the key to finding peace within himself  was not in his horn, but in the story of the most interesting person he'd ever known  -- and the person he loved the most -- his own mother.

He set about interviewing Ruth McBride Jordan and searching out her mysterious past, a process that took 14 years and resulted in a book that is regarded as a landmark work. Says McBride of The Color of Water: "If I had known so many people were going to read that book, I would've written a better book."