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Picture of James McBride

James McBride

James McBride is an author, musician and screenwriter. His memoir, The Color of Water (Riverhead), is an American literary classic. He has written screenplays and teleplays for film icon Spike Lee (Miracle At St. Anna, Red Hook Summer) and television pioneer David Simon (Parting The Waters). James is a former staff writer for The Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, the Boston Globe, People Magazine, and the Washington Post (Style Section). His work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Essence, and National Geographic. In 2015, James was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2016, James was awarded that National Humanities Award by President Barack Obama. His 2013 novel, The Good Lord Bird, served as the basis for the 2020 Showtime miniseries of the same name. His 2020 novel, Deacon King Kong, was the Oprah Book Club pick of June 2020. His most recent work, The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store, was selected by both Barnes & Noble and Amazon as their Book of the Year for 2023 and won the Kirkus Prize in Fiction for 2023.

 James holds several awards for his work as a musical theater composer, including The American Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award, The ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons Award, and The American Music Theater Festival’s Stephen Sondheim Award. He has written songs (music and lyrics) for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., Gary Burton, Silver Burdett Music Textbooks, and for the PBS television character “Barney.” He served as a saxophonist sideman with jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott.  James was born and raised in New York City and attended New York City public schools. He studied at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is proud and delighted to be a Distinguished Writer-In-Residence at New York University.

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Literary Award Weekend Co-Chairs

Margaret Riley King and Casey King 

Joelle and Brant Phillips 

Marie and Charles Sueing

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Sponsors of the weekend are civic leaders who make this celebration possible and whose generosity directly funds an organization with an unparalleled impact on our community. Select sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please see our guide for benefits and options. 

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When you become a patron for the Nashville Public Library Literary Award Gala Weekend, you are investing in more than just this celebration. Your gift helps sustain the Library for generations to come. 

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