Growing up in the home of Ruth McBride Jordan proves to be an ever-testing, but an advantageous adventure for her twelve children. As a child, Ruth is abused by her Orthodox Jewish rabbi father, and she is forced to work long hours in the family store. Ruth finds forbidden love in the arms of a Black man. She eventually marries another Black man and sheds her White Jewish background. Her children face identity problems and often wonder why their mother s face does not look like their own. Ruth carefully avoids the subject and makes sure that the focus of her children is education and religion.
James, the seventh of the twelve children, is stuck in the middle of an age-ranked household. He is tortured by his siblings and grows ashamed of his mother s face. Stuck between two worlds, he struggles to find his place in society because of his mother s secretive past. All of the Jordan McBride children became successful adults from various professions. James tells the story of his and his mother s past through the pages of a very powerful novel. The struggles that Ruth and her family endured because of their race were heart-breaking. The piece of literature is well-written and truly describes the hatred that some humans feel toward others. Ruth is a little ahead of her time, and if she had been born 20 years later, her life may have been easier.
Although discrimination and racism are prevalent in today s society, the nation has come far from the way it was in the 1920 s. It is not rare to find a child with parents of various racial backgrounds. Categorizing a person as a specific race is nearly impossible in the new millennium. It seems to serve only as a purpose to separate people or discriminate against a group of people. Had this not been a part of American society, Ruth s children would have no problem with identity. They would be Americans and not Black, White, Jewish, mixed, mulatto, or any other foolish title.
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Ruth is an example of a strong woman who defies the popular beliefs of her time. She may not think that she was active in the civil rights movement, but she was in an indirect fashion. By raising open-minded citizens, she helped to spread the morals regarding race that has grown very popular. Even in her old age, she continues to defy what society wants her to believe. Society wants her to fear the projects and dwellings of Black people. Her own children attempt to keep her from catching the subway to see her life-long friends in neighborhoods that are considered high risk.
The Color of Water serves as a stepping-stone for Ruth to uncover her past for herself and the family members who adore and depend on her. Rachel Dwajra Zylska evolves into Rachel Deborah Shilsky and grows into Ruth McBride Jordan. Through her evolution and growth, she teaches her children that through their education and religion they can and will become successful citizens. Her strength and perseverance can be seen through the success of her dozen children who overcome the adversity of identity, race, and poverty.
In The Color of Water by James McBride, we are taught through the eyes of a black man and his white mother that color shouldn’t matter. Although Ruth McBride Jordan had grown up as a Jew and had a father who disliked Jews very much, she was never prejudiced against them and learned that she fit into the black world better than the white world. When she married a black man, she accepted Christ into her life and told her children, “God is the color of the water.” She taught her kids that color didn’t matter because God loves all races.
Throughout her life, Ruth was torn between what relationships she should have with black people. Because her father hated black people so much, overcharging them when selling goods, it was initially hard for her to communicate with these people. Her first “real” boyfriend, Peter, had been black and Ruth could not reveal to her family about this relationship. So when she married a black man, her family disowned her, reciting kaddish and sitting shiva. They mourned her and did everything they would do if a Jew had really died. That didn’t matter to her though because her husband changed her life. She is the person she is today because of him.
She married another black man named Hunter Jordan after her first husband died of cancer, and he made a great impact on her life as well. So eventually she started to associate with black people more, and less with white people. Ruth found and learned throughout her life that blacks are more peaceful and trusting. James McBride, the author of this memoir, had always questioned his mother about the difference between his race and his mother’s when he was little. He was always wondering why his mother’s skin color was different than the other mothers. When he asked his mother, “Am I black or white?” she responded, “You’re a human being. Educate yourself or you’ll be nobody.”
Then one day he asked his mother, “What color is God’s spirit?” And she answered, “It doesn’t have a color. God is the color of the water. Water doesn’t have a color.” I love this quote because it is so spiritual and its meaning is so true. Ruth was saying that God is not black or white and thus he loves all races equally. Race doesn’t make people worthy of God’s grace. Although James did not understand at that time, he does now. He understands why his mother put him and his siblings in white schools, not only because they are the best, but because white people shouldn’t be the only ones able to have a great education. Through his mother, he learned that color does not matter especially because everyone is equally God’s children.
We are all God’s children. Even though we are all different in our own way and have different colored skin, that doesn’t matter. James McBride learned that through the powerful words of his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan. Ruth learned that during the course of her life and did not follow her father’s example in being prejudice against black people. As she said, God is the color of the water. He is neither black nor white, but at the same time, he is both. The Color of Water is a black man’s tribute to his white mother, because of the amazing lessons she taught him through first-hand experiences from her life.
In this memoir, the author chooses to have two narrators, himself as one, and his mother as the other. This style makes for quite an interesting story, skipping back and forth in time, from the child’s life to that of his mother. Although many time changes occur, they are quite easy to keep up with, as the two narrators of the book, James, and his mother, alternate chapters. For this reason, it is also very easy to compare the childhood of each of the main characters. Although the chapters aren’t always during the same time periods of the respective characters, they are close enough that similarities can be seen, and parallels can be drawn. This is one of my favorite parts of the novel, seeing the main character, James, grow up with his mother Rachel.
In summary, the author tells the story of both his mother and himself growing up. His mother was raised Jewish but became Christian before James was born, which was thus the religion he was raised in. Both had very strict discipline, in their respective religions. The memoir focuses more on Rachel, who grows up in a Jewish family living in a country and area where Jews are not well received. After surviving this, and sexual abuse as a child, Rachel goes on to run away from home, and marries a caring black man from New York. Here she settles down, has a family, and raises twelve kids while being constantly harassed because of her marriage, as well as her children, who are all of a different color than her. After eight children, her husband dies, and she remarries a man of similar morals, race, and discipline.
James, the final child of the original father, grows up knowing only the step-father as “daddy”, and suffers the hardships of growing up in a multi-racial family, which always seems to be in the minority. This memoir was written mainly for the author’s interest, and not the reader’s, which definitely makes it unique. Although it is just like any other book, in that its success will be judged by sales as well as how it affects readers, the author only went through all of the research done in writing this book in order to quench his own thirst for finding out where his roots lay. This is quite evident in the reading, which seems to mention the history, and story behind nearly everyone, as well as every place.
This makes for many interesting stories, but often-times ones that are too preoccupied with showing the reader what it meant to the author, and not as concerned with the enjoyment of the reader. This, of course, spawns another problem. With an author who is only concerned with showing the reader how it affected himself, you are deprived of what you really want to know about a given character. James has eleven brothers and sisters, all of which have something to add to the story, and yet the exposition given to each of them is far from satisfactory. Much more detail could have been given on what they thought of their mother, how each of them found out about her, who teaches and lives the motto “Don’t tell anyone your business.”
For this reason, the children have the challenge of digging up the truth about their mother, and James takes it to the next level, by writing a book. What the book does offer a younger reader, like me, is an insight as to what it was like to grow in the 1950s and ’60s in a biracial family. The hardships that these children, James especially, and his mother endure, are depicted quite well. Each shows how strong of a person Rachel was, and also helped to strengthen the children, which would benefit them later in life. However, the most important thing that came from these anecdotes of racism in the memoir was what it taught me, as a reader.
The way that Mommy reacted during each of these instances showed that you truly could ignore people that have nothing good to say, and get away with it. She can teach nearly any reader that it doesn’t pay off to go crazy on someone and that ignoring him or her and walking away does seem to be the best solution, and is a sign of strength that outweighs getting in a fight, whether you win or lose. This memoir also teaches a good lesson on religion. Although Rachel was raised in a Jewish family that was tainted by sexual abuse, and a lack of love, she realizes by the end of the book that part of her is Jewish and that not everything Jewish is bad.
There are plenty of families, organizations, and get-togethers that exist in all religions which a lot of good can and does come from. Nearly anybody who believes in a god will be less prone to commit violent acts, and more likely to help out a stranger. Rachel does become a Christian, and Jesus really did help her in her time of need, if you ask her; but no matter what the religion, faith can help out many people in their time of need. This book shows what Christianity did for Mommy, and what good came of all the Jewish friends she had from before leaving the religion.
This book’s structure wasn’t written perfectly, and it certainly wasn’t concerned with winning any awards, but it had a purpose. It gave the author a better sense of who he is, and can give many readers much more than that; valuable lessons in life. To grade this book on things such as structure, vocabulary, and even sales would be to miss the entire point of the memoir. Read it as a memoir with great insight and damn good owners manual on how to get along in this world, and I can guarantee you won’t be let down; in fact, you will probably be quite impressed. But if what you’re looking for is a book that needs to live up to the standards of a great piece of literature, you’re looking in the wrong place.
The color of water by James McBride is an epitome of the struggles, trials, and tribulations that minorities undergo in New York. This memoir talks of James’ real-life story together with her Jewish mother in New York. Through his mastery in writing, James McBride brings out his story in a well-crafted manner whereby, the portrayals of theme, setting, struggles, and triumphs fall in place accurately, and they precisely depict the people involved in this story; that is, James McBride and his mother; Ruth McBride. The accuracy of this book brings out clearly the story of James McBride as he tries to understand the realities of life.
It may be a story; however, one can easily identify it with McBride’s situation; firstly, born of a white mother who seems to have everything wrong from religion to race, and then two black stepfathers; a situation that leaves McBride torn between his true self and where he belongs in the society. It is probably out of this confusion that he says, “Mommy’s tears seemed to come from somewhere else, a place far away, a place inside her that she never let any of us children visit, and even as a boy I felt there was pain behind them.
I thought this because she wanted to be black like everyone else in the church because maybe God liked black people better, and one afternoon on the way home from church I asked whether God was black or white.” (McBride 20). Firstly, the setting perfectly adds meaning to this memoir and sheds light on James and his mother. The setting is in New York where there is a mixture of both white and black people. Born Ruth Jordan in Poland, Ruth McBride together with her family moved to Suffolk in Virginia. Here, there is a mixture of both white and black people as aforementioned and this setting accurately depicts Ruth’s situation as narrated in the story.
As the story unfolds, the setting shifts to Harlem where James was born and brought up. Through experience, the writer knows that New York is full of black and white people; therefore, this setting is a true depiction of what happens in New York. The portrayal of the themes in this story is very accurate. For instance, the principal theme here is segregation because of racial or religious differences. Ruth’s father is a racist and he even overcharges black customers simply because they are not of his race. Moreover, Ruth had to bear with isolation and derision as a Jew in the South where Judaism was uncommon.
Both Ruth and James had to live torn between their identities. Particularly; as a white woman living amongst black people especially during the black power movement, Ruth had to struggle. James witnessed the brutality that black people in his family and neighbors by the white people. This theme comes out accurately. This is a true depiction of what the minority black people went through in New York for many years. The other theme; past versus present is also depicted clearly. Both James and Ruth are caught up in the same turmoil of striking a balance between the past and the present. They both want to cling to some parts of their past while letting go of the others.
For instance, Ruth has to conciliate her Polish culture and Judaism religious background and this can only happen by marrying a black man and leaving Judaism for Christianity. James and Ruth both want to respect their past and learn from it; however, they also want to move on with their lives and live an abundant life void of legacies of traditions that bound their early families. The encumbrance of secrets comes out clearly in this memoir. From his childhood, James knew very little about his mother’s background. On the other side, when Ruth becomes pregnant by Peter, her boyfriend, she keeps it to herself without telling her family. Moreover, even though Tateh abused her, she keeps mum about the issue. On the other side, she does not know why her two aunts have never spoken to each other for years on end.
The theme of the American dream comes out clearly also. After immigrating to America, the Shilskys finally finds peace from the hustles and bustles of Europe in Virginia. Eventually, after Ruth starts her own family, she starts to live an American life whereby she can determine her destiny (SparkNotes Editors para. 6). This is the true American Dream. As the story unfolds, Ruth, together with her family moves to the Red Hook Housing Project in Brooklyn, a place she describes as ‘the real American life.’ However, the theme of the American Dream comes out clearly, when Ruth keeps on thinking of how her twelve children will grow up; succeed in college; secure good jobs as teachers, musicians among others and establish their own families. This is a true depiction of the American dream and it comes out accurately in this memoir.
The struggles and tribulations of the people involved in this memoir are depicted accurately in the book. From the beginning, the struggles of Ruth are evident. She is struggling to overcome her abusive racist father who once assaulted her sexually. She struggles with her Jewish religion amidst the Christian culture of the South. On his part, James struggles to understand his place in society. He cannot understand why some people are black while others are white. He cannot decipher the color of God, whether black or white. These incidences come out clearly in the book. There is no doubt; James McBride did a good job in putting out his story. This is easy to read the book recommend to everyone.
As Robert Terwilliger, a novelist states, “Committing yourself is a way of finding out who you are. A man finds his identity by identifying……”. The Color of Water by James McBride raises such issue as he shows his struggle to discover his identity in life as he recounts the life experiences of a young boy born into an interracial family in New York, during a time in which having a black father and a white mother was something uncommon and highly criticized among American society. As he is on his search to acknowledge the adversities his mother Ruth had undergone, raising up James and his eleven siblings.
James was prompted to ask his mother about his true identity when he began to notice the physical and social differences between himself and his mother and society. Although at a young age her responses always consoled his heart even if it didn’t always ease his tensions or clear his confusions about his identity. McBride depicts his mother Rachel Shilsky’s struggles in life. “The daughter of a failed polish rabbi who grew up in the south, fled to Harlem, married a black man, founded a church and put 12 children to college.” (Color of water).
She found her self in the black community with deep faith in God: “Because God makes me happy…Jesus was mommy’s salvation…pressed her forward” (pg.50, 165) When asked “What color is god’s spirit?”, the response “God is color of water”. Living in a racially diverse world in which everyone is addressed and recognized by the color of their skin, one can interrupt her response as say water has no color and is reflexive. And water is indeed clear. Thus God has no color either. God does not discriminate nor favor any race because of the color of the skin. Her metaphoric response is the understanding to accept diverse people for who they are, not what group or race they belong to.
The book The Color of Water was written by James McBride. James McBride is an award-winning writer and musician. He has been a staff writer for The Washington Post, People magazine, and The Boston Globe. He is best known for his memoir, best selling Color of Water. This book talks about his family history and his mother. In 2003, He also published a novel, Miracle at St Anna, drawing on the history of the African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign.
The book, The Color of Water is about James’ life and also a tribute to his polish Jewish immigrant mother. Although many time changes occur, they are quite easy to keep up with, as the two narrators of the book, James, and his mother, alternate chapters. For this reason, it is also very easy to compare the childhood of each of the main characters. Although the chapters aren’t always during the same time periods of the respective characters, they are close enough that similarities can be seen, and parallels can be drawn. James McBride’s biological father, Andrew Dennis McBride died of lung cancer while his mother, Ruth McBride was pregnant with James McBride. After the death of her first husband, McBride’s mother married a black man from North Carolina.
James’s mother eventually had twelve children, eight from her first marriage and four from her second. In 1923, Ruth McBride arrived in the United States at the age of two. The family traveled around the United States for several years, and Ruth’s father tried and failed to make a career as a rabbi. Ruth’s family settled in Suffolk, Virginia, where they opened a general store. The store overcharged the customers and made racist comments. Tateh abused Ruth when she was a child and she was demanded to work in the family store. James’s mother did not want to discuss her painful past of her abusive father, Tateh, who pushed her poor sweet mother, Mameh around like property. James grew up in a chaotic family and did not have time to ask questions about racial barriers.
As a child, James struggled with questions about his mother’s skin color and background, at times even entertaining the notion that he had been adopted. He also suffered the hardships of growing up in a multi-racial family, which always seems to be in the minority. The hardships that these children, James especially, and his mother endure, are depicted quite well. Each shows how strong of a person Ruth was, and also helped to strengthen the children, which would benefit them later in life. However, the most important thing was what it taught me as a reader. The way that Ruth reacted during each of the racial instances showed that you truly could ignore people that have nothing good to say, and get away with it. She taught me that there is no point getting mad at someone and ignoring and walking away is the best solution. Walking away is the symbol of strength and outweighs the fight.
This memoir also teaches a good lesson on religion. Although Ruth was raised in a Jewish family that was tainted by sexual abuse, and a lack of love, she realizes by the end of the book that part of her is Jewish and that not everything Jewish is bad. Ruth did become Christian and Jesus really helped her in her time of need; but no matter what religion, faith can help out many people in their time of need. Ruth sent her children to the best schools and wanted her children to get the best possible education. She demanded hard work and sincerity from her children as well. Perhaps even more than she valued hard work, Ruth embraced education, not only as the means to a successful life but as the path to liberation.
As a child, James struggled with questions about his mother’s skin color and background, at times even entertaining the notion that he had been adopted. While James was a bit young to fully understand the events of the 1960s, he experienced their impact through his older siblings. The Civil Rights and Black Power movements flashed themselves in his older siblings resulting in the conflict between his mother and her older siblings. His mother largely ignored these issues, emphasizing that school, church, and family were to take priority and that one’s private life should remain private. Later, James struggled with the same issues and realized in order to understand and himself, he had to understand the background of his mother.
Ruth’s statement that “God is the color of water” succinctly captures Ruth’s attitudes toward race and religion. Ruth believes that race occupies a secondary role in goodness and achievement. When Ruth says she thinks of God as “the color of water,” she means that God is not black or white, he is not of one race or another, but of all races and none. James was very close to his stepfather and when he died when James was fourteen, James began drinking, doing drugs, and performing poorly in school. After Ruth discovered that not only were James’s grades poor, but he had been skipping school entirely, she sent him to his sister Jack’s house in Louisville, Kentucky, for the summer. James ended up spending three consecutive summers in Louisville.
James had pivotal experiences in Kentucky, living with his sister Jack and her husband. In Louisville, James said he received “true street eduction”. Chicken Man was James’s favorite local man and the one from whom he learned the most. Chicken Man recognized his failures in life and urged James to educate himself and work hard. As a result, he became aware of the importance of taking an active role in his own life and future. This attitude inspired James to act more responsibly. He grew more self-disciplined, honing his writing and musical skills. During this time of late adolescence, he made the acquaintance of the Dawsons, whose support he appreciates. They are the first white rich people James really gets to know. James was able to turn himself around and eventually won a scholarship to study music and composition at Oberlin College.
He later studied journalism at Columbia University and made a career as both a writer and jazz musician. Secrets and mysteries appear again and again in this memoir. For much of James’s childhood, he knew little to nothing of his mother’s background. Ruth simply discouraged him from his intense curiosity. In summary, to Ruth’s credit, during a time of segregation, all twelve of her children graduated from college and went on to successful careers.
But more importantly, despite Ruth’s inability to address race and religion with her family, she did teach her children that love, community, and family were ultimately more important. This book’s structure wasn’t written perfectly, and it certainly wasn’t concerned with winning any awards, but it had a purpose. It gave the author a better sense of who he is, and can give many readers much more than that; valuable lessons in life. According to me, the two stories, son’s and mother’s, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note.
James McBride’s memoir, The Color of Water, demonstrates a man’s search for identity and a sense of self that derives from his multiracial family. His white mother, Ruth’s abusive childhood as a Jew led her to search for acceptance in the African American community, where she made her large family from the two men she marries. James defines his identity by the truth of his mother’s pain and exceptionality, through the family she creates and the life she leaves behind. As a boy, James questions his unique family and color through his confusion of issues of race. Later in his life, as an adolescent, his racial perplexity results in James hiding from his emotions.
This is fueled by, not only the changing emotions that teenagers typically endure, but also by the death of his stepfather, whom he saw as his own father. After his death, James cannot bear to see his mother suffer, for she no longer knows how to control the dynamics of the family and “wandered in an emotional stupor for nearly a year.” James instead turns to alcohol and drugs, dropping out of school to play music and go around with his friends, which James refers to as “my own process of running, emotionally disconnecting myself from her, as if by doing to I could keep her suffering from touching me.” Instead of turning to his family and becoming “the king in the house, the oldest kid,” James “spent as much time away from home as possible absolving himself of all responsibility”.
As a result, Ruth sends James to live with his older half-sister and her husband, in an attempt to straighten her out her son’s life. James distracts himself with the life he found there, spending the summers on a street corner with his half sister’s husband, Big Richard, whom he adores, and the unique men that frequented the area. During these summers, James discovers “He could hide. No one knew him. No one knew his past, his white mother, his dead father, nothing. It was perfect. His problems seemed far, far away.”
Example #8 – Quest for Self Identity in ‘The Color of Water’
Growing up in a multiracial family can be confusing, especially if one’s family history has been kept a secret for years. This is the problem for James McBride, whose lifelong struggle of self-identity kept him from truly understanding and accepting who he was and where his family came from. The Color of Water depicts the life of James McBride, a Jewish African American young man who is in search of his self-identity, and his mother, Ruth McBride, a devout Christian woman who was born and raised as a Jew but refuses to tell her children about her troubling past. James demonstrates that in order for one to be able to find their self-identity, they must first understand where they come from.
Raised by his white mother, James often spent most of his childhood feeling confused about his identity because of his mother’s secretive past. His mother, Ruth, chose to never speak about her childhood or her family, and instead focused on promoting religion, education, and privacy to all her children. “She insisted on absolute privacy, excellent school grades, and trusted no outsiders of either race. We were instructed never to reveal details of our home life of any figures of authority: teachers, social workers, cops, storekeepers, or even friends” (McBride 27).
Ruth’s teachings took a toll on James growing up because he was taught to never open up to anyone. Trying to deal with his confusion, James resorts to creating a fictional version of himself, who he talks to by looking at himself in the mirror. He creates this imaginary version of himself because he wants to see what his life would be like if his life was simpler. “To further escape from painful reality, I created an imaginary world for myself. I’d lock myself in the bathroom and spend long hours playing with him. He looked just like me. I’d stare at him… I would turn to leave, but when I wheeled around he was always there, waiting for me. I had an ache inside, a longing, but I didn’t know where it came from or why I had it. The boy in the mirror didn’t seem to have an ache.
He was free. I hated him” (90-91). James feels resentment towards “the boy in the mirror” because he wishes he could be like him, free of any worry or confusion. The boy that James creates is what James wishes his life could be simple, instead of confusing. During his teenage years, James becomes angry and starts acting out in order to cope with the pain of not understanding who he is. He chooses to go down the wrong path; turning to drugs and alcohol and ditching school to the point that he decides to become a dropout. “I was obviously hiding, and angry as well, but I would never admit that to myself.
The marvelous orchestrated chaos that Mommy has so painstakingly constructed to make her house run smoothly broke down” (140). Ruth eventually cannot deal with it anymore and sends him to stay with his sister, Jack, and her husband in Kentucky. In order to feel accepted by the older men there, James starts to spend his free time at a local hangout spot known as, “the Corner.” Spending time on the corner let James free his mind of all his troubles, “I turned fifteen on the Corner but I could act like I was twenty-five, and no one cared. I could hide. No one knew me. No one knew my past, my white mother, my dead father, nothing. It was perfect. My problems seemed far, far away” (147). The Corner became James’ place to get away from his identity issue.
While there, he felt like he fit in with everyone else which was the exact opposite of how he felt when he lived with his mother. However, James finally came to the realization that acceptance from the men on the Corner was not the acceptance he had been searching for. Hanging out on the corner was only a temporary solution for a much bigger problem. James’ mentor, and one of the men that hung around the Corner, Chicken Man, helps James come to this realization. He tells James that he [James] is not as smart as he really thinks he is, or else he wouldn’t be hanging around The Corner wasting time, “Is that how you want to end up, goin’ to jail? Because that’s where you’ll end up, doing time and hanging on this corner when you get out.
Is that what you want for yourself? ‘Cause if you do, you can have it. Go on” (149-150). Hearing this, James tells Chicken Man that he is actually a very smart young man, to which Chicken Man replies, “Everybody on this corner is smart. You ain’t no smarter than anybody here. If you are so smart, why you got to come to this corner every summer? ‘Cause, you flunkin’ school! Do you think if you drop out of school somebody’s gonna beg you to go back? Hell no! They won’t beg your black ass to go back. What makes you so special that they’ll beg you! Who are you? You ain’t nobody! If you want to drop out of school and shoot people and hang on this corner all your life, go ahead. It’s your life!” (150).
Hearing this, James first disagrees with Chicken Man’s statement but soon discovers that he was right, and moves back to live with his mother in New York, even though that means going back to dealing with his identity crisis. As James starts becoming an adult, he begins to look into his mother’s past. He uncovers all the secrets that his mother had kept from him and his siblings for years. He finds out where Ruth spent most of her childhood years and heads out there to find some answers. After interviewing a few people, James finds out that his mother was born a Jew and had a very tough childhood because of her father, the local rabbi.
While James feels terrible that Ruth lived in such troubling circumstances, he feels like part of him is now filled because he finally knows where his family comes from. “The uncertainty that lived inside me began to dissipate; the ache that the little boy who stared in the mirror felt was gone” (229). James does not feel like he did when he used to talk to the boy in the mirror. Now, he feels like that little, confused boy is gone because he knows the truth and has finally found his identity.
Example #9 – Racism and Self-Identity: A Review of “The Color of Water”
The American South, especially from the 1930s to the 1960s, is a hard place to live for when you are a “colored person. ” This novel, written by James McBride, discovers the complexities of having a bi-racial activity, especially at a time when blacks and other minorities are hated and discriminated upon by the dominant white society.
This novel attempts to reflect at the domination of American society by the white man and attempts to discover his own identity by looking at his mother’s past: the life of Ruth McBride, a Polish-Jewish immigrant in the South of the 1930s, beset by constant intimidation and violence of the white majority to other racial minorities, especially to Jewish immigrants and to the blacks, who were historically imported by white plantation owners to work as slaves in cotton plantations.
However, the journey of Ruth McBride does not end here; she actually continued her journey away from the American South, loving two blacks in the way, and describing the unique complexities of the Harlem district of New York City. The Christian faith also plays a colorful part in this novel, providing the needed comfort and guidance in times of adversity. This background, combined with questions about his racial self-identity, will soon lead him to have violent behavior, including phases of drug use and crime. However, he will soon find value in his life, relying upon the principles of hard work and self-improvement, plus additional skills in writing and jazz music. The novel starts with chapters introducing the mother of the author, Ruth McBride, and is already full of symbolism and drama.
The first chapter, entitled Dead, describes the Jewish origin of Ruth, and offers a glimpse of the discrimination that they are already experiencing; and she further becomes “dead” due to her marriage to Dennis McBride, whose race is officially viewed as inferior, and whose race is a victim of officially-sponsored racial segregation (McBride, n. pag. ). Given that the background of the family of Ruth comes from a conservative one, guided by orthodox Jewish practices, choosing to marry a colored one surely brings in discrimination by society and rejection of the family.
In this case, it can be clearly seen that in America of the early twentieth century, your race can actually determine the way you live; being color can make you have a miserable life constantly under threat and looked down on, even when you may live in the “land of the free. ” This theme continues in the second and third chapters, where the bicycle of Ruth became a medium where she can find constant movement away from the troubles of living a multi-racial family, all while her son James already looked into crime and drugs for escape. Ruth also recalls the origins of her family, as symbolized by the Kosher, where Jews are already suffering from discrimination and intimidation in their native land, and where immigration and the practices of orthodox Judaism serve as a convenient escape from the racial discrimination that they are experiencing.
Such experiences vividly explore the hardships of belonging to a hated race, where escape is a necessary thing. The point of view of James is also seen in this chapter; James recalls that he sees her mother as different at such an early age, although he really cannot fully comprehend why in fact she is different from others. This is highlighted in the account when James already reaches kindergarten; he asks his mother why she is different from him, although her mother refuses to entertain the question (McBride, n. pag. ). Her bitter memories regarding her family influences her not to open the topic later in her life, soon to be understood by James.
In the third chapter, entitled Kosher, Ruth recalls the arranged marriage of her mother and her father, which was brought out of convenience, which she does not make any sense of it at all (McBride, n. pag. ). In addition, she also recalls all of the strict practices of Orthodox Judaism, to which she sees it as very suffocating, making her have a very difficult life, combines with a very strong fear of death. Such experiences will later affect her in raising a family, focusing on hard work to offset the difficulties of their racial origin. In the later chapters, such as in Black Power, James began to realize the complexities of being a multi-racial person; torn between the desire of having solidarity with fellow black neighbors striving to fight for black power and concern for his white mother who is unwilling to commit with this movement, emphasizing the importance of privacy, the church, and the family.
James even asked her mother if he was adopted, due to the fact that he has a different color from her mother. The civil rights movement at that time was very strong, with the black community in their area actively supporting and campaigning for more black powers in society, to which her mother is very reluctant to accept. Adding to such complexities is a commentary of James upon her mother’s belief, often contradictory because of her Orthodox origins, as well as she is a Christian convert living among a black community (McBride, n. ag. ). After this recall, however, James decides to show sympathy to his mother, ending up punching the face of a son of a member of the militant Black Panther Party, whom he deemed as a threat to his white mother.
After all, this episode shows that joining a black power solidarity movement, especially for a multiracial is not always smooth; convictions for black power may conflict with personal beliefs and priorities, provoking hesitation despite common discriminatory experiences in a white-dominated society. The book then shifts on how Ruth has found her guidance and inspiration amidst all these contradictions, tracing her Orthodox Jewish origins to her eventual conversion to Christianity. Her early experiences are never easy. Contrary to the popular belief that having a new life in America will lead you to the prosperous “American Dream,” In the chapter entitled “Old Testament,” the experiences of Ruth’s family were no American dream; on the contrary, they suffered under constant poverty.
Her father tried to make a living by being a rabbi, forcing them to move constantly from place to place; until they decided to open a grocery store in the predominantly black town of Suffolk, Virginia. Ruth also had a recollection of her loveless daughter-father relationship, especially because of the fact that her father was secretly abusing her sexually. However, she also points out that she still has a positive remembrance of her childhood, which includes her memories with her mother during the Jewish holidays. In the next chapter, entitled the “New Testament,” the conversion of Ruth to Christianity is portrayed.
This is emphasized in the way how Ruth raised her children, not taking lightly one instance where Billy refused to recite a biblical passage on Easter Sunday. However, questions on race are also presented in this chapter, with James asking her mother what is the color of God’s spirit, and her mother replying that it has no color, that God is the color of the water. Such passages reflect how important color is as an issue at that time, for ones’ opportunities and possibilities in life ism not determined by abilities alone, but by color. In addition to this, America at the time of James still sees a society wherein being a colored means being a lesser human being; where black power is being fought for, and being black while having a white mother makes you trapped in questions and confused.
This is followed by a recollection in the home of her mother in Suffolk, Virginia, where the absence of opportunities for blacks and Jews alike has lead them to miserable poverty, in addition to the presence of the Klu Klux Klan which presents constant intimidation and violence for them. This recollection is then intertwined with the experiences of James with respect to his siblings, highlighting the difficulties of raising a family that explores his/her racial identities. The next chapters, especially School, Boys, and Daddy explores the personal experiences of both James and Ruth on racial prejudice, with Ruth having to secretly meet with her loved one due to the threat of the Ku Klux Klan, and the fears of James in attending a predominantly white school.
However, this part of the novel also gives a positive insight; the tremendous work ethic of Ruth and the exploration of jazz music by James as a new way of escape. The next parts of the book explore the devastation of the family with the demise of the second husband of Ruth, especially in its effect on James, and an insight into everyday life in the Harlem district of New York. James then began to seek the origin of his parents in Suffolk, Virginia, and witnesses the poverty and racial complexities in that area intertwined with the early experiences of his mother in love, especially in the chapters The Promise, Old Man Shilsky and A Bird who flies. The problems of the interracial marriage between Ruth and Dennis, as well as the discovery of the synagogue, is highlighted in the chapters A Jew Discovered and Dennis; while the final chapter, Finding Ruthie, emphasizes the fact that being multiracial is not only difficult but full of uncertainties.
Example #9 – interesting ideas
I need help with The Color of Water book? I have to answer questions about this book and I am kinda stuck on some here is: What traits does James inherit from his mother? Which of these traits are most admirable or helpful in his personal journey?
Answer. The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother is the autobiography of James McBride; it is also a memoir for his mother. The chapters alternate between James McBride’s descriptions of his early life, and first-person accounts of his mother’s life, mostly before James McBride was born. The novel depicts the conflicting emotions that James endures as he struggles to discover who he truly is, as his mother narrates the hardships that she had to overcome to educate her children. The novel also depicts the emotional struggle James has with uncovering his true identity only through discovering his mother’s past.
Im need to make a book cover for school, and I need ideas for a book cover.
Answer. Oh gosh, water comes in so many awesome colors, sea green, deep blue, ice blue, dark green, ever see movies on surfing? Beautiful color es, blends, with the help of the sun, goldens, and on cloudy days, the seas or oceans are silver when the fog rolls in even more color the colors in the rivers and lakes also, great luck, You will have fun creating these colors !!!!
1 . In this book, It becomes quite clear that the goal of an Afro-American man is to seek and unravel his Jewish mother’s past. In the process, he struggles to come to terms with his own identity and discovers that the power of love and an unwavering belief in God allows humans to overcome the barriers of race, culture, and religion. It is no surprise that this book is required reading by the students of sociology. The daughter of a rabbi, an immigrant from Poland, marries a Black man and following his death raises twelve kids. Against all odds, she sends them to college and they achieve remarkable success in distinguishing careers. Ruth McBride’s sheer will power, resilience, and love for family and God radiate through the pages of this compelling memoir.
2 . The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in “orchestrated chaos” with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success. The McBride children’s struggle with their identities led each to his or her own ” revolution.” It is also possible that that same struggle led them to define themselves through professional achievement.
3 . Several of the McBride children became involved in the civil rights movement, perhaps a result of the times in which they lived, their need to belong to a group that led them to develop a solid identity or a combination of these factors. McBride’s mother—Rachel Deborah Shilsky (an Americanization of her original Polish name)—eventually relented. Stressing the importance of education (and the church) to her children, she put them all through college. Some even went on to graduate school. Many of them became successful professionals in medicine, dentistry, teaching, and other fields.
I really had trouble finding an actual essay on this book that some essay sites didn’t charge money for. Here is what I finally found:
“James McBride. At the beginning of the year when I heard about meeting an actual author of a book I thought it would be really cool. Just to know about the experience of writing and also why they would write one. This was before I even knew what the book was about. During the reading of “The Color of Water” I began wondering what it REALLY was like. Especially in the conditions the family often lived in. During the reading, I had questions about the family and why James’ mother did the things she did as the children grew up. During his lecture, I think I learned more about him than I did in the book. I think that James focused this book around his mother.
Although many parts dealt with him growing up and the problems he had, he explained a lot about his mom. However, during the lecture, he explained personal stories of writing the book and not letting people know about it. I thought that keeping it a secret was weird but, I also could understand since it was a personal issue between his mother and himself. Something that I felt was really interesting was that even at the age of 46 (I’m pretty sure Im close there) that James STILL calls his mother “Mommy”. To me, this represents the closeness that he has with his mother and the security that he has with her. While driving to the school, I was questioning whether I would actually enjoy the presentation.
However, leaving there I had a much better perspective on what his and his mothers’ lives were like. I also found it inspirational. That even a family that often lived off of brown sugar and bread were able to make themselves successful. Now even more before the presentation, I admire Ruth for supporting her children. And I admire James (and his siblings) for being able to become successful with all of their problems weighing down on them. Overall I’m very happy that I was able to listen to James’ speech and I think it would be awesome if there would be other authors coming to the school.”
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