As you listen to this episode of Speakers Forum, keep in mind that author James McBride gave this talk without any notes. In it he riffs on his family, career, books and life in America with thoughtful, humorous and inspiring improvisation.
McBride began his career as a musician, earning an undergraduate degree in music composition from Oberlin College in 1979. He went on to tour as a saxophonist with jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott.
Later, as a composer, he won the American Music Theater Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award for his jazz/pop musical "Bobos."
McBride also earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and pursued a writing career with The Boston Globe, People Magazine and The Washington Post. He gained acclaim for his memoir “The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.”
Then in 2013 he won the National Book Award for fiction for “The Good Lord Bird.” In it, McBride re-imagines the story of the abolitionist John Brown, seen through the eyes of a young slave named Henry “Onion” Shakleford. The National Book Award judges called McBride’s voice "as comic and original as any we have heard since Mark Twain." As you’ll hear, McBride has something to say about that.
McBride is currently a distinguished writer-in-residence at New York University.
Seattle Arts and Lectures presented this talk by McBride at Town Hall Seattle on October 15, 2014. The presenting sponsor was The Seattle Times.