Author James McBride Talks Writing New Novel ‘The Good Lord Bird’

Source: Joel Lyons / New York Daily News

Stop if you’ve heard this one before: When a fictional slave child named Henry Shackleford is orphaned after his father’s death, he becomes the ward of John Brown, real-life white abolitionist. Brown, who misinterprets Henry’s name as Henrietta, thinks the boy is a girl, and later nicknames “her” Onion and considers “her” to be his lucky charm.

That’s the premise of “The Good Lord Bird,” the fourth book by James McBride, who penned the required-reading memoir “The Color of Water,” and novels “Miracle at St. Anna” and “Song Yet Sung.”

Over-the-top premise aside, this pre-Civil War-era gifts readers with a satirical look at figures both real and imagined.

“It’s dangerous work writing about any of these American icons without offending anyone, so I just didn’t think about it,” McBride said. “This book is about exaggerated characters that do funny things, but it’s based on real events and things they did.”

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