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The product of an immigrant Jewish mother and an African-American reverend father, James McBride shared his story in the memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother, which was on the New York Times best-seller list for more than two years. It was his first book.
McBride has worked on the staffs of many well-known publications, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and People magazine, and he has contributed articles to Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, Essence and The New York Times, to name a few.
He is currently a distinguished writer-in-residence at New York University. His latest book, Miracle at St. Anna, was made into a movie and directed by Spike Lee.
The Rock Bottom Remainders, a group of writers willing to rock out for a good cause, are lucky to count him as a member of their ensemble. When not writing, McBride actually is a musician, playing tenor saxophone at paying gigs and writing songs for the likes of Anita Baker and Grover Washington Jr.
Before he went on the road, we asked him these 20 questions:
1. What book had the biggest impact on you? Why?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Because I could read it to the end.
2. Have you ever read or written a perfect sentence?
No. But Toni Morrison is a perfect as it gets on the human side.
3. What was the oddest job you ever had?
I put headlights in Ford vans. I still drive a Ford.
4. How did you start playing music?
5. What would your theme song be?
"Mars" by John Coltrane.
6. What is your favorite food?
I'm not interested in food. It's just fuel.
7. Which individual has, for better or worse, had the single greatest influence on your life?
8. What is your greatest career coup?
My family is my career.
9. What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome or challenge you have ever faced?
See number 8.
10. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
11. What talent would you most like to possess?
Track speed in the 100-yard dash.
12. What is your favorite film?
The Thing by John Carpenter.
13. What inspires you most?
Americans who care.
14. What is your greatest fear?
Americans who don't.
15. What gives you hope about the world today?
16. What is one thing you have always wanted?
A hydraulic lift in my garage.
17. What is your most valued possession?
18. What is one book you've been meaning to read?
"Superman Battles The Hulk."
19. What is your secret, guilty pleasure?
Sitting in a McDonald's reading a newspaper.
20. How would you like to be remembered?
Forget me. Be kind to the living.
Learn more about the Rock Bottom Remainders
What does James McBride say about the band?
Published on April 21, 2010