2013 National Book Award Winner, Fiction
The Good Lord Bird
Riverhead Books/Penguin Group (USA)
James McBride’s novel takes a pivotal, troubled sequence in American history—John Brown’s abolitionist campaign—and retells it in a voice as comic and original as any we have heard since Mark Twain. The narrator is one Henry Shackleford, aka Onion, an escaped teenaged slave who accompanies Brown while disguised as a girl. Fondly portraying Brown as a well-meaning but unhinged zealot, The Good Lord Bird is daringly irreverent, but also wise, funny, and affecting.
About the Book
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.
Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.
An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
About the Author
James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the American classic The Color of Water and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was turned into a film by Spike Lee. McBride has written for The Washington Post, People, The Boston Globe, Essence, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. A graduate of Oberlin College, he has a master’s in journalism from Columbia University. McBride holds several honorary doctorates and is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He lives in Pennsylvania and New York.
> McBride's website: jamesmcbride.com