"As a journalist, the details always tell the story.""First person narrative is a very effective tool but you have to know as a writer how to make it work.""If you have the material it will form itself as a kind of connective tissue.""When you're interviewing someone, even your mother - you have to sort of deal with you have to get some objective space from yourself and the person but you also have to find what's the best way to get the information from that person.""Writing for me is cutting out the fat and getting to the meaning."
McBride's father, the late Rev. Andrew D. McBride who died of lung cancer at age 45, was African-American, and his mother (Ruchel Dwajra Zylska later changed to Rachel Deborah Shilsky later changed to Ruth McBride Jordan) was a Jewish immigrant from Poland. He was raised in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing projects, the eighth of 12 children and last child of Rev. Andrew McBride. "I'm proud of my Jewish history," he has said. "Technically I guess you could say I'm Jewish since my mother was Jewish...but she converted (to Christianity). So the question is for theologians to answer. ... I just get up in the morning happy to be living." His book The Color of Water talks about his family history and his mother, who died on January 9, 2010.
Two of his older brothers, Dennis and Billy, graduated with doctorates in medicine, but that didn't appeal to McBride. He got an undergraduate degree in music composition from Oberlin College in 1979. He received a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
McBride is married, with three children. They live in New York.
As a journalist, he was on the staffs of many well-known publications, including The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the Wilmington News Journal, and People magazine. He has written pieces for Rolling Stone magazine, Us magazine, the Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Essence, The New York Times, and others. Mr. McBride is a charter member of the Clint Harding Network, a group of well-known journalists, writers and musicians who periodically have appeared live on a Missouri radio program for the last two decades.
McBride is best-known for his 1996 memoir, the bestselling The Color of Water, which describes his life growing up in a large, poor African American family led by a white, religious, and strict Jewish mother, whose father was an Orthodox rabbi, but converted and became devoutly Christian during her first marriage to Andrew McBride.
"I thought it would be received well in the black community but it's sold much better in the white Jewish community," he said. "Most of my readers are middle-age, white, Jewish women...."
The memoir spent over two years on The New York Times bestseller list, and now appears on high school and university course lists across America.
In 2003, he published a novel, Miracle at St. Anna, drawing on the history of the overwhelmingly African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign from mid-1944 to April 1945.The book was adapted into the movie Miracle at St. Anna, directed by Spike Lee, released on September 26, 2008.
In 2005, he published the first volume of The Process, a CD-based documentary about life as lived by low-profile jazz musicians.
In 2008, McBride uses the notorious criminal Patty Cannon as a villain in his novel Song Yet Sung.