15 March 2011

The Color of Water by James McBride

Born in the early stages of America's civil rights movement, James McBride faced some unusual circumstances during his life; more unusual than most people faced. His birth father was a black man, his mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant. James had seven siblings older than he. His father died from lung cancer during James' pregnancy. His mother married another black man and gave birth to four more children. Life carried on.

James' mother, Ruth, although Jewish, converted to Christianity and, with her first husband, started a church. Faith played a central role in their lives and does so throughout this memoir. McBride uses the book as a means to describe his own life but tells it along with the story of his mother's life. As difficult as it might be to be born to a black man during a time of great racial tension, I imagine Ruth faced even greater difficulties. Can you imagine the isolation she must have felt? Her family turned their back on her when her first pregnancy occurred out of wedlock and with a black man. Of course she was also an adult during the civil rights movement so she was very aware of the tensions around her, and the need to protect her young children. Even facing all of this she had a wonderful way of looking at life. Ruth was always an advocate for bettering one's self. She taught her children the values of faith, hard work, and motivation. Her children are a testament to a woman who plunged forward during radically difficult times; all twelve completed college and went on to successful lives. James became a journalist as well as a jazz musician and, obviously, an author too.

Though growing up was rough, later in life James could say that it was a blessing to have come from two worlds.

The Color of Water 10th Anniversary Edition

Oh, what is the color of water?  Ruth had the answer...read and find out.

Ruth McBride Jordan died at age 88 on 16 Jan 2010.

I read this book in November of 2006. I will read it again.
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