2015 Longlist

The Good Lord Bird


2015 Longlist

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade-and who must pass as a girl to survive.

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.

(From Publisher)

About the Author

James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Color of Water. His second book, Miracle at St. Anna, was optioned for film in 2007 by Black Butterfly Productions with noted American filmmaker Spike Lee directing and co-producing. McBride has written for the Washington Post, People, the Boston Globe, Essence, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. He is a graduate of Oberlin College. He was awarded a master’s in journalism from New York’s Columbia University at the age of twenty-two. McBride holds several honorary doctorates and is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University. He lives in Pennsylvania and New York.

Librarian’s Comments

Little Onion, a 10 year old slave boy, is mistaken for a girl after being freed by abolitionist John Brown and his raiders, and becomes an unwitting (and unwilling) participant in Brown’s quixotic fight to end slavery. His colloquial, tall-tale prose offers a humorous, irreverent perspective on the historic mythologies and realities of racism, and what happens when good intentions and good words are not enough.



Riverhead Books


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