James McBride Quotes
“My siblings had already instilled the notion of black pride in me. I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. My view of the world is not merely that of a black man but that of a black man with something of a Jewish soul. I don’t consider myself Jewish, but when I look at Holocaust photographs of Jewish women whose children have been wrenched from them by Nazi soldiers, the women look like my own mother and I think to myself, There but for the grace of God goes my own mother—and by extension, myself.”
“That was the Old Man’s favorite song. “Blow Ye Trumpet.” Them Negroes was far away from the doings on the plaza where the Old Man was to hang, way out from it. But they sang it loud and clear….
Blow ye trumpet blow
Blow ye trumpet blow….
You could hear their voices for a long way, seemed like they lifted up and carried all the way into the sky, lingering in the air long afterward. And up above the church, high above it, a strange black-and-white bird circled ‘round, looking for a tree to roost on, a bad tree, I expect, so he could alight upon it and get busy, so that it would someday fall and feed the others.”
“I asked her who he was and she said, “He was a man ahead of his time.” She actually liked Malcolm X. She put him in nearly the same category as her other civil rights heroes, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Kennedys—any Kennedy. When Malcolm X talked about “the white devil” Mommy simply felt those references didn’t apply to her.”
“Chase looked 'round and seen Frederick's grave where we'd buried him.
"Don't know. We been hiding in this thicket while the Free Staters was scouting 'round here. I heard 'em say it was one of theirs."
Chase pondered the grave thoughtfully. "It's a fresh grave. We ought to see if who'sever in there got on boots," he said.”
“I had thoroughly been a girl so long by then that I'd grown to like it, got used to it, got used to not having to lift things, and have folks make excuses for me on account of me not being strong enough, or fast enough, or powerful enough like a boy, on account of my size. But that's the thing. You can play one part in life, but you can't be that thing. You just playing it. You're not real.”
“powerless suckers who believed in the American dream scrambling to the suburbs because they, the big boys, wanted a bigger percentage. He felt it, or thought he felt it, as they stood by the front door. There was a connection: a man whose father was dead and a woman whose father was about to die, a sense of wanting to belong, standing in the warm vestibule, she in her farm-girl dress, with a job that paid taxes and drew no cops, no Joe Pecks, no complicated phone calls from complicated people trying to pick your pocket with one”
“As a boy, I never knew where my mother was from---where she was born, who her parents were. When I asked she'd say, "God made me." When I asked if she was white, she'd say, "I'm light-skinned," and change the subject. She raised twelve black children and sent us all to college and in most cases graduate school. Her children became doctors, professors, chemists, teachers---yet none of us even knew her maiden name until we were grown. It took me fourteen years to unearth her remarkable story---the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, she married a black man in 1942---and she revealed it more as a favor to me than out of any desire to revisit her past. Here is her life as she told it to me, and betwixt and between the pages of her life you will find mine as well.”
“back,” Daddy said. “It’ll work out.” He had no idea what to do about Helen. They spoke a completely different language. He was an old-timer who called school “schoolin”’ and called me “boy.” He had run off from Jim Crow in the South and felt that education, any education, was a privilege. Helen was far beyond that. Weeks passed, months, and Helen didn’t return. Finally Jack called. “I found her. She’s living with some crazy woman,” Jack said. She told Ma she didn’t know much about the lady other than that she wore a lot of scarves and used incense. Mommy got the address and went to the place herself. It was a dilapidated housing project near St. Nicholas Avenue, with junkies and winos standing out front. Mommy stepped past them and walked through a haze of reefer smoke and took the elevator to the eighth floor. She went to the apartment door and listened. There was music playing on a stereo inside, and the voice of someone on the phone. She knocked on the door. The stereo lowered. “Who is it?” someone asked. It sounded like Helen. “I’m here to see Helen,” Mommy said. Silence. “I know you’re there, Helen,” Mommy said. Silence. “Helen. I want you to come home. Whatever’s wrong we’ll fix. Just forget all of it and come on home.” From down the hallway, a doorway opened and a black woman watched in silence as the dark-haired, bowlegged white lady talked to the closed door. “Please come home, Helen.” The door had a peephole in it. The peephole slid back. A large black eye peered out. “Please come home, Helen. This is no place for you to be. Just come on home.” The peephole closed.”
“لم تعد لدي دموع لأذرفها فقد نفدت منذ زمن طويل، ولكن ألماً جديداً ووعياً جديداً ولدا في داخلي. بدأ الغموض المتوطن في داخلي يتبخر، وزال الألم الذي شعر به الولد الصغير الذي حدق في المرآة. لقد استيقظت إنسانيتي الخاصة، وصعدت لتحييني بمصافحة، فيما راقبت بزوغ نور الشمس الأول فوق الأفق. قلت لنفسي إن هناك فرقاً كبيراً بين الموت والحياة، وأن أعظم هدية يمكن أن يعطيها الإنسان لشخص آخر هي الحياة، وأن أعظم خطيئة يمكن أن يرتكبها الإنسان بحق شخص آخر هي سلب هذه الحياة، إلى جانب ذلك، فإن جميع القوانين والأديان تصبح شيئاً ثانوياً .. مجرد كلمات ومعتقدات يختار الناس الإيمان بها والكره والقتل باسمها. لن أعيش حياتي على هذا النحو، وآمل أن أولادي لن يعيشوا كذلك أيضاً”
“After practice on lazy summer afternoons, he’d gather the kids around and tell stories about baseball players long dead, players from the old Negro leagues with names that sounded like brands of candy: Cool Papa Bell, Golly Honey Gibson, Smooth Rube Foster, Bullet Rogan, guys who knocked the ball five hundred feet high into the hot August air at some ballpark far away down south someplace, the stories soaring high over their heads, over the harbor, over their dirty baseball field, past the rude, red-hot projects where they lived. The Negro leagues, Sport said, were a dream. Why, Negro league players had leg muscles like rocks.”
- Born: in Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York, The United States.
- Description: James McBride is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools. He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22. He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He is married with three children. He lives in Pennsylvania and New York.
James McBride is a former staff writer for The Washington Post, People Magazine, and The Boston Globe. His work has also appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times. His April, 2007 National Geographic story entitled “Hip Hop Planet” is considered a respected treatise on African American music and culture.
As a musician, he has written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., and Gary Burton, among others. He served as a tenor saxophone sideman for jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott. He is the recipient of several awards for his work as a composer in musical theater including the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award. His “Riffin’ and Pontificatin’ ” Tour, a nationwide tour of high schools and colleges promoting reading through jazz, was captured in a 2003 Comcast documentary. He has been featured on national radio and television programs in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
---from his official website