The Color of Water by James McBride

Ruth’s childhood relationship includes a proof of her bitter separation from her family, which explains the family’s avoidance. Despite her contribution to the current book, Ruth refuses from time to time to recall her troubled past. James describes his mother’s eccentricities, which can be described as both embarrassing and charming, as he discovers her being dissimilarity from parents’ friends and other adults. James also provides one of the aims of this memoir: to look for an explanation of his mother’s behavior within the events of her life.

The author uses his mother’s bicycle as an emblem of her difference. The bizarre habit of riding a bike and also the opinions of others are not of the utmost importance to him. The author’s mother loves movement which she treats as an escape from reality. Also, being part of a chaotic household makes it easier to divert children from contemplating about race and aid them to discover the way to contribute to the wellbeing of the society.

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James starts the book with a humble tone to his mother. Although he says she sometimes irritated him, James paints a portrait of his mother as a tricky but big-hearted woman. The author explains that she did her best bearing in mind the big adversities of the life. James pays tribute to her memory and confirms her strength of character.

Throughout his childhood, James has dwelled on his family’s origin. When asking his siblings about their race or background, they tease him, lie or fire at him.

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The mother is unable to answer personal questions as James tries to barter these conflicting loyalties. He wants to care for his mother, but at the same time lives in a black neighborhood, which atmosphere leads him to accept the revolution.

Ruth’s childhood’s description in Suffolk allows both James and the reader to grasp how she decided to measure her own life. Living among the blacks and communicating with them on a daily basis, she was able to better understand their struggles. Moreover, her minority status as a Jew meant that she was a victim of hardship, prejudice and exclusion, although she emphasized that the blacks suffered greater degradation than the Jews.

James’ shared racial awareness is partly because of the political climate of his youth. James’ peers and the movement they supported treated white people as adversaries. James felt that his friends and neighbors were inflicting pain on his mother. In this instance he was serving as mother’s guardian. Notwithstanding, James felt ashamed of her mother when she appeared in front of his friends. Teenagers often feel embarrassed by their parents, but James experienced unusual racial pressure from his mother. The author often agreed along with his friends’ insults on whites, although he secretly felt guilt as these insults slandered all whites. James’ adolescence coincided with a key period in black history.

Summing up, McBride touches upon several crucial themes that can be treated as universal. The racial awareness or seeking own’s place during childhood are pervading topic even in the contemporary world. The book The Color of Water has a unique structure of being narrated both from the perspective of Ruth as well as James. This entails a more comprehensive overview of discussed matter to the reader, although its singularity might not suit everyone.

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The Color of Water by James McBride. (2021, Sep 22). Retrieved from

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