James McBride Invokes Fiddler on NPR

On August 17, the novelist James McBride invoked our favorite musical in a conversation on NPR about his new book, The Good Lord Bird. What does Anatevka have to do with McBride’s historical hijinks and prickly portraits of some heroes in the long fight for racial equality? Nothing except that Fiddler is a handy shorthand for a certain kind of bona fides. “Can you,” asked interview Scott Simon, “as the beloved author of The Color of Water — this wonderful memoir you wrote and the subtitle: “A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother” — can you get away with those kinds of depictions of Frederick Douglass and John Brown, that maybe other writers couldn’t?” McBride hesitated. “Whew. That’s a tough question. Probably.” And then an analogy came to him. “I don’t know that a white writer would do that,” he said. “But then I don’t know that a black writer who writes, you know, Fiddler On The Roof wouldn’t find his books in the black section of the bookstore.”