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Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her 12 black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother. 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 11 siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn.
In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. At 17, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race.
Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, 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 Color of Water touches listeners of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Michael on 05-30-17
The narration is awesome and deserves a 6. The characterization was outstanding, consistent and powerful.
This is the best pro-religion novel I have ever read. I am not religious myself, but I am not a bit anti-religious. I think religion is absolutely fantastic for some people. This novel expresses this pro-religion message perfectly. The color of God is the Color of Water. The novel is refreshingly Pro. Pro-Christian, Pro-Jew, Pro-Black, Pro-White, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice, Pro-Work, Pro-Play, Pro-Pro. I laughed many times, and teared up a few, and left the book entirely satisfied. Some describe this novel as a tribute the author's his mother. If I had seen that before I read this, it might have put me off (thinking it would be sappy). This was not sappy.
I loved the structure of this novel, I loved the pacing and flow, I loved the subtlety, I loved the narration, I loved the interweaving stories, I loved the characters, I loved the ambiguity, I even loved the length. I loved the end.
Few books resonate with me so strongly. My life was very different than the author's, my mother quite different than his, but almost every word of this novel resonated with me and my own life.
There are relatively few novels I would recommend to anyone. This is one of those. I am a very critical reader. I seldom finish a book without feeling there was something that could have been better. This was, for me, perfect. It is not the best book I have ever read, not even close. Yet for this story it was perfect.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful