The Good Lord Bird

The Good Lord Bird

eBook - 2013
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Penguin Putnam
Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith
A Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Oprah Magazine Top 10 Book of the Year

“A magnificent new novel by the best-selling author James McBride.” –cover review of The New York Times Book Review

“Outrageously entertaining.” –USA Today
“James McBride delivers another tour de force” –Essence
“So imaginative, you’ll race to the finish.” –
“Wildly entertaining.”—4-star People lead review
"A boisterous, highly entertaining, altogether original novel.” – Washington Post
Look out for McBride's new book, Five-Carat Soul

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water, Song Yet Sung, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography, 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.

Baker & Taylor
Fleeing her violent master at the side of legendary abolitionist John Brown at the height of the slavery debate in mid-19th-century Kansas Territory, Henry pretends to be a girl to hide his identity throughout the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. By the best-selling author of The Color of Water.

Publisher: 2013
ISBN: 9781101616185
Branch Call Number: E-Book
Characteristics: data file
1 online resource


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2013 National Book Award, Fiction

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May 23, 2018

Avail at NKC

Jul 07, 2017

Both leading characters in this novel, the historical figure John Brown the abolitionist and his fictitious sidekick the story's narrator Onion or rather Henrietta or should I say Henry Shackleford, bring significant amounts of comic and sarcastic quality to this retelling of Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry and the events leading up to it. McBride cleverly brings this tragic historical story and time period to life by using humor and southern black vernacular language with its colloquialisms and idioms​.

Find an excellent full review of the book at​

"The Good Lord Bird will be most deeply resonant with those with some connection to the legacy of slavery, either personal or intellectual. If you have studied and read about the institution widely, especially works that depict its violence and dehumanization–Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Robert Hayden’s Middle Passage, Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography, Alex Haley’s Roots–the full force of McBride’s wit and withering commentary will not be lost on you. "

May 25, 2017

I think I learned something about slavery. I'd never heard of John Brown but my husband knew who he was, and now I know ,too.

Nov 18, 2016

McBride falsely presents Frederick Douglass as a child molester.

Jun 01, 2016

A refreshingly humorous piece of historical fiction here.

May 10, 2016

I highly recommend this book! It is a fascinating read with insight into aspects of our history, areas of the country, sexism, race interactions and just plain zaniness of life as imaged by the author. It clearly told a story that sets the stage for the civil war.
The dialect was a bit slow and tedious early on for me, but (as usual) it became common sense in no time.

Apr 20, 2016

This is a great read. The dialogue is refreshing compared to most new fiction. On a deeper level it's fascinating to watch how various African American characters treat one another and interact with one another.

Mar 20, 2015

I wasn't sure how I felt about this book in the beginning. It seemed wordy and a bit repetitive, but I developed a respect for the story and the author as the book continued. This was a crazy and incredible time in history and the legendary John Brown was quite a character. I think the author did a good job capturing the essence of the time and the man. The lingo was very well done.

Nov 25, 2014

The Good Lord Bird is a deliciously subversive perspective on the story of abolitionist John Brown, in the tradition of Mark Twain and yes, filmmaker Mel Brooks! This book is no respecter of halos, even when attached to iconic figures like Frederick Douglass (who sports a 'busted' halo in McBride's retelling). John Brown is an obsessive renegade and bible quoting fundamentalist, yet there is an otherworldly honesty in his red hot mission to destroy slavery. Mcbride has created real, flawed human beings, not caricatures. The result is a very funny, very moving story with a touch of the sublime.

Nov 06, 2014

"He was like everybody in war. He believed God was on his side. Everybody got God on their side in war. Problem is, God ain't telling nobody who He's for."
James McBride's National Book Award winning novel tells the story of John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry from the perspective of a young, freed slave who is mistaken for a girl and spends much of the novel dressed as one. Told from his perspective, it is simultaneously comic and brutal, with echoes of "Huck Finn" and "Little Big Man." McBride masterfully conjures up the violent past while touching on issues (race, identity, fanaticism) that are still with us. Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Jeb Stuart all make appearances. Two other novels about Brown worth checking out: Russell Banks's "Cloudsplitter" and G.M. Fraser's "Flashman and the Angel of Light."

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Jun 02, 2016

"I was born a colored man and don't you forget it. But I lived as a colored woman for seventeen years."


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