New York University
Writer (essayist, fiction writer); Musician (composer, saxophonist); Educator
Humanities and Arts
Novelist, journalist, screenwriter, composer, and musician. He is best known for his 1996 memoir, The Color of Water, which describes his life growing up in a large, poor African American family led by a white mother. On The New York Times bestseller list more than two years, it has become an American classic, read in high schools and universities across America. His first novel, Miracle at St. Anna (2002) draws on the history of the African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign and was adapted into the movie directed by Spike Lee. Newest novel, The Good Lord Bird (2013), which recounts the life of the abolitionist John Brown, won the National Book Award. He is a former staff writer for The Wilmington News Journal, The Boston Globe, People Magazine, and The Washington Post. He holds several awards for his work as a composer, including The American Music Theater Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award. He also is a saxophonist and former sideman for jazz legend Jimmy Scott.