Award-winning writer, composer and saxophonist James McBride will speak Tuesday, Feb. 7 in the Mountainlair Ballrooms. His presentation,The Color of Water: A Meditation on Identityis part of WVU ’s Festival of Ideas series.

McBride’s landmark memoir, The Color of Water , is read in colleges and high schools across America . A New York Times bestseller for two years, this book is the stirring account of his mother, a white Jewish woman from Poland who raised 12 black children in New York City and sent each to college. It has been translated into more than 17 languages, sold more than 1.8 million copies worldwide and is a perennial favorite of book clubs andOne Book, One Communityevents, including New York in 2003 and Philadelphia in 2004.

His second book, Miracle at St. Anna , has been hailed by critics asdeeply imaginativeandsearingly, soaringly beautiful.In this book, McBride engages the seldom mentioned subject of black combat soldiers in World War II. Four members of the famed American 92 nd Infantry Division find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany . Surrounded by Germans, they rescue a small Italian boy who proves to be the catalyst in each man’s quest for courage, love, sacrifice and honor.

A former staff writer for The Boston Globe , People Magazine and The Washington Post , McBride’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times and Rolling Stone . He has received several awards for his work as a composer in musical theatre, including the American Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers award, the ASCAP Richard Rodgers Horizons award and the American Music Theatre Festivals Stephen Sondheim award. In 2003, he was selected by President Bush to serve on the National Council on the Arts.

He has written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., Gary Burton, Silver Burdett Music Textbooks and for the PBS show,Barney.McBride studied composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio . He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University and is currently a distinguished writer in residence at New York University .

Other Festival of Ideas presentations include:

  • Feb. 13Searching for a Miracle: Media Coverage of the Sago Mine Disaster.Journalists from CNN , CBS , USA Today , the Charleston Gazette , The New York Daily News and the Poynter Institute discuss the media coverage of the Sago Mine disaster;
  • Feb. 16Business writer and bestselling author James Surowiecki.The Wisdom of Crowdslooks at group dynamics in the decision making process.
  • March 27William H. Webster, former director of Central Intelligence.ForensicsGuardian or Threat to our Civil Liberties;
  • April 17 CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.C oming Full Circle : A 360 Look at World Events.

All Festival of Ideas presentations, free and open to the public, begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballroom. Seating is limited on a first-come, first-served basis. Festival of Ideas is produced by WVU Arts&Entertainment. Additional event information is available online at 304-293-SHOW (7469).