- James McBride is an award-winning writer and composer. His critically acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water
, won the 1997 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Literary Excellence, was an ALA Notable Book of the Year, and spent more than two years on The New York Times
bestseller list. In 2002 it was chosen by The New York Women's Agenda as the book for New York City Reads Together, the first book selected for that honor. The Color of Water
has sold more than 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and is now required reading at numerous colleges and high schools across the country. It is a perennial favorite among book clubs and community-wide reading groups, and has been published in 16 languages and in more than 20 countries.
McBride's new book, Miracle at St. Anna, an historical novel released in January 2002, is the story of an Italian orphan who befriends a black American soldier in Italy during World War II. It has been hailed as "an outstanding novel" by The Dallas Morning News, called "greathearted, hopeful, and deeply imaginative" by Elle Magazine, and is described as "searingly, soaringly beautiful" by The Baltimore Sun.
McBride is a former staff writer for The Washington Post, People Magazine, and Boston Globe. His work has also appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone and The New York Times. Aside from his literary honors, McBride is also a musician. McBride is currently writing his newest book, a novel about jazz, and plans a fall 2003 college tour with his12 piece R&B/jazz band in support of his newest CD/documentary project called "The Process."
McBride has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines including People, Newsweek, Savoy and USA Today. He has appeared on several national radio and television shows including The Rosie O'Donnell Show, NPR's All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Morning Edition, and in major news outlets in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. James is a native New Yorker and graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He also holds an Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters from Whitman College and The College of New Jersey.
Ruth McBride Jordan
- Born in Poland in 1921 to Hudis and Fishel Shilsky, Ruth changed her birth name as she embraced a new and happier life in New York City with Andrew Dennis McBride, who became her first husband. Her early life was filled with love from her mother and adversity almost everywhere else – at home, where she was abused and forced to work long hours in the family store; in the neighborhood; and at school, where she was ridiculed for being a member of the Jewish faith. After her graduation from high school, Ruth moved to New York, then later left the comfort of her grandmother’s home to start a new life with Andrew. Their marriage was a happy one. Together they produced eight children, instilling in them the importance of religion, education and family loyalty. Upon her husband’s death, Ruth was assisted in raising her children by Hunter Jordan, who became her second husband and the father of her four additional children. She became a widow for a second time, and eventually overcame her grief to focus again on ensuring that all of her children would become well-educated, productive members of society. Once she had achieved that goal, she returned to school herself and became a social worker. Ruth moved to New Jersey to live with her daughter, Kathy, and continues to serve and educate others.
Rachel Deborah Shilsky's Family and Acquaintances
- Rachel’s beloved mother, Mameh, who suffered from polio. She was faithful to her three children and husband.
- Rachel’s father, Tateh, a rabbi, who was racist, demanding, greedy and abusive to his wife and children.
- Rachel’s older brother, who ran away from home, enlisted in the military, and later died in WWII.
Gladys (Dee-Dee) Shilsky
- Rachel’s younger sister, who was born in America. She cut Rachel out of her life when Rachel decided to leave the family and flee to New York City.
Zaydeh and Bubeh
- Rachel’s grandparents, who settled in New York and supported Rachel’s family when they first came to America.
- Hudis’s wealthy sister, who lived in New York and employed both Rachel and James McBride.
Laurie and Paul Schiffman
- Hudis’s eldest sister and her husband, whose sponsorship allowed the Shilskys to emigrate to the United States.
Aunt Betsy (Betts)
- Hudis’s youngest sister, who lived with Bubeh and helped Rachel obtain an abortion.
Uncle Dave, Uncle Issac, Aunt Rhonda, Aunt Bernadetta, Uncle Hal, Lois and Enid
- Other members of Hudis’s family living in New York.
Frances Moody Falone
- Rachel’s only school friend in Suffolk.
- An older woman in Suffolk who befriended Rachel.
- Rachel’s first boyfriend, who impregnated her when she was fifteen years old. Later, he married someone else, whom he impregnated.
- Rachel’s boss when she was a manicurist in New York, who tried to entice her to become a prostitute.
- Rachel’s neighbor in Suffolk, who later helped James learn about his mother’s side of the family.
- One of the few Jews who remained in Suffolk and who helped James learn more of his family history.
- Another acquaintance of the Shilskys, who owned a slaughterhouse.
Ruth McBride Jordan's and James McBride's Family and Acquaintances
Andrew Dennis McBride
- James’s biological father and Ruth’s first husband, who supported her through difficult times and died of cancer before James was born. He was a musician and clergyman and reintroduced religion to Ruth’s life.
Hunter L. Jordan
- Ruth’s second husband, who worked for the New York City Housing Authority. James’s primary male role model. He bought a house for Ruth and her children and later died of a stroke.
- Andrew McBride’s daughter from a previous marriage, who helped Ruth and her children with food and emotional support.
- Jacqueline’s husband, who taught James a variety of life skills when he spent summers with them.
Andrew Dennis McBride
- James’s older brother and Ruth’s oldest son, who was an artist and civil rights activist and became a doctor.
- James’s older sister and Ruth’s oldest daughter, who was appointed to keep the younger children in line and who became a psychologist.
William (Billy) McBride
- James’s older brother who enjoyed teasing him and who became a medical director.
- James’s older brother and William’s partner in crime when it came to teasing James. He became a University Chairman of Afro-American History.
Richard (Richie) McBride
- James’s brother. The absent-minded “Mad Scientist” son of Ruth who became a chemistry professor.
- James’s sister who became a medical practice office manager.
- James’s attractive half-sister who grew up to be a special-education teacher and with whom Ruth lived later in her life.
- James’s half-sister who became a teacher in New York
- James’s younger half-brother who became a computer consultant.
- James’s youngest half-brother, who disliked his mother’s cooking. He attended North Carolina A&T University.
Walter, Henry, and Garland Jordan
- Hunter L. Jordan’s brothers, who welcomed the McBride and Jordan children into their lives.
- Hunter L. Jordan’s southern cousin, who entertained the children with pony rides when they visited in the summer.
- Ruth’s first husband’s aunt, who stayed and helped the family after his death.
Linwood Bob Hinson
- James’s cousin, who looked like his father, Andrew Dennis McBride.
- The woman James married.
Marvin and Joe
- James’s teenage friends, who joined him in escaping life by getting high.
- An elderly, frequently drunk gentleman, who befriended, advised and philosophized with James when he stayed with Jacky and Richard, and who met a violent end.
- The religious leader who married Ruth and Andrew and for whom the New Brown Memorial Church was named.
- The leader of the Whosoever Baptist Church, where James and his family actively participated in weekly services.
- James’s godfather, also active in the Baptist Church.
- Ruth’s best adult friend, who died shortly after Hunter L. Jordan died.
Curtis and Minnie Ware
- Andrew’s friends from back home, who settled in New York and supported him during his lean financial years.
Sam and Trafinna Wilson
- Friends who hosted a wedding reception for Andrew and Ruth McBride.
- A friend of Ruth who was also in an interracial marriage.
David and Ann Dawson
- A wealthy couple from Delaware, who provided a job and financial support so that James could travel with the American Youth Jazz Band to Europe.
- A jazz critic and James’s close friend.
David Lee Preston
- James’s journalist friend, who also had a remarkable mother, Halina Wind, who survived the Holocaust.