Friday, January 27, 2006

Lecture: James McBride

Last night L. and I went to see James McBride lecture and play a little jazz at Northeastern University. I taught McBride’s memoir, The Color of Water, to my sophomore class last year. It is an amazing story that tells of his heritage: his mother was a Polish Jew and his father was African American. It is a book that I highly recommend.

Last night McBride took the stage and began to speak. His manner was so relaxed and witty and fun. He spoke about his childhood and young adulthood. He was careful to tailor his remarks for the college students in the crowd, many of whom were writers and musicians themselves. He spoke at length about his experience writing his memoir and how its success has impacted his life.

He is a gifted speaker. I can easily say that it was one of the best lectures I have attended by an author. I just wish my students, and other students could hear him speak.

A few interesting things I learned: He did write the chapters in his mother’s voice first and only when an editor suggested that he tell his own story did the memoir as it stands take shape. Also, his mother and her long lost sister did reunite after the book was published, although it was not the Hallmark moment you might see in a made for TV special.

McBride spoke passionately about being politically aware and active. He supported liberal arts education and independent book stores. He played a little jazz.

Afterwards, we walked a bit on Northeastern’s campus for the first time. I saw my first rat scurry across an open sidewalk. The cafeteria must have been near. Ugh. We grow rats with tails in Indiana.

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