James McBride On His New Novel ‘The Good Lord Bird’

We talk to bestselling author James McBride about his new novel “The Good Lord Bird,” on slavery and the abolitionist movement.

(James McBride, photo by Chris Messina)

(James McBride, photo by Chris Messina)

At the end of a week where civil rights have been on everyone’s mind, we sit down with James McBride, author of “The Color of Water,” to talk about his new novel, “The Good Lord Bird.”

He looks at the notorious abolitionist John Brown, a religious zealot set on ending slavery through violent uprising. His sidekick, and our narrator, is Henry, although to a mixed up John Brown, it’s Henrietta.  In the novel we meet Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman.  We see America on the brink of Civil War.

This hour, On Point: Bestselling author James McBride and his new book, “The Good Lord Bird.”


James McBride, author, musician, and screenwriter. His new novel is “The Good Lord Bird.”

From Tom’s Reading List

San Francisco Chronicle: ‘The Good Lord Bird,’ by James McBride — “We have heard of good people who get swept up in historical circumstances and act badly. But sometimes history flatters mediocre people – that is, certain members of the fair-to-middling majority who, by happenstance, act bravely. Such is the persona who narrates James McBride’s absorbing and darkly funny novel, ‘The Good Lord Bird.'”

The Week: James McBride’s 6 favorite books — “‘The Bluest Eye’ by Toni Morrison (Vintage, $14). There’s no book that better captures the frustrations, hopes, dreams, and disappointments of black American girls. This book was written before Ms. Morrison outgrew the storytelling form that most writers must adhere to. She’s a genius. She can fly. The rest of us have to wait for the subway.”

Excerpt: ‘The Good Lord Bird’ by James McBride

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