The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

James McBride / Jun 06, 2020

The Color of Water A Black Man s Tribute to His White Mother Touches readers 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 Who is Ruth McBride Jordan A self declared

  • Title: The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother
  • Author: James McBride
  • ISBN: 9781573225786
  • Page: 250
  • Format: Paperback
  • Touches readers 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.Who is Ruth McBride Jordan A self declared light skinned woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children James McBride, journalist, musician and son, explores his mother Touches readers 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.Who is Ruth McBride Jordan A self declared light skinned woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve 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 eleven siblings in the poor, all black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn Mommy, a fiercely protective woman with dark eyes full of pep and fire, herded her brood to Manhattan s free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best and mainly Jewish schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long buried pain 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 With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents loveless marriage her fragile, handicapped mother her cruel, sexually abusive father and the rest of the family and life she abandoned At seventeen, 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 Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth s determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college and most through graduate school At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University 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 readers 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.

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      250 James McBride
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    About "James McBride"

      • James McBride

        James McBride is a native New Yorker and a graduate of New York City public schools He studied composition at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio and received his Masters in Journalism from Columbia University in New York at age 22 He holds several honorary doctorates and is currently a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University He is married with three children He lives in Pennsylvania and New York James McBride is a former staff writer for The Washington Post, People Magazine, and The Boston Globe His work has also appeared in Essence, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times His April, 2007 National Geographic story entitled Hip Hop Planet is considered a respected treatise on African American music and culture.As a musician, he has written songs music and lyrics for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr and Gary Burton, among others He served as a tenor saxophone sideman for jazz legend Little Jimmy Scott He is the recipient of several awards for his work as a composer in musical theater including the Stephen Sondheim Award and the Richard Rodgers Foundation Horizon Award His Riffin and Pontificatin Tour, a nationwide tour of high schools and colleges promoting reading through jazz, was captured in a 2003 Comcast documentary He has been featured on national radio and television programs in America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand from his official website


    1. Such a gem to me. McBride is a black journalist, novelist, and jazz musician who recognizes what a wonder his mother Ruth was when she raised him and 11 siblings and gets her to open up about her secretive past. The book is lyrical and tender, tough and heartbreaking, and suffused with tales of courage balanced with humor. McBride alternates skillfully between Ruth talking about her early history and his own perspective from the inside of the family she nurtured in Brooklyn and Queens in the tur [...]

    2. Onvan : The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother - Nevisande : James McBride - ISBN : 1573225789 - ISBN13 : 9781573225786 - Dar 291 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 1996

    3. I read so many books, that very few actually stick with me, even 8 years after the fact. I cannot recommend this book enough. McBride writes from two different points of view: himself, and his mother. He parallels his growing up in poverty to his mother's story of moving to Harlem, before the civil rights movement. It is amazing. I had the opportunity to meet the author at a writer's conference right after we read this for bookclub, and he is a gentle soul who has the most respect for his mother [...]

    4. سيرة حياة ملونة بالأبيض والأسود وكأنها توثيق لفترة التمييز العنصري في أمريكاالفكر السائد والجائر عن الآخر المختلف في اللون والعِرق والديانة يحكي الكاتب والموسيقي جيمس ماكبرايد سيرته الذاتية بالتناوب مع سيرة والدتهالبولندية اليهودية البيضاء المهاجرة مع أسرتها إلى أمريكا [...]

    5. If Cheaper By the Dozen, by Frank Gilbraith Jr and The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, ever somehow met and had an "I like you as a friend, not a lover" child, The Color of Water would be it - race and a ridiculous amount of kids. The concept is compelling, and I would recommend this book to anyone who was disappointed that Run, Ann Patchett's most recent book, didn't deal more directly with race issues in a mixed-race family. Nominally, this book is a tribute to James McBride's mother, who was a [...]

    6. 4.5 starsSuch beautiful writing. Some books grab me right away just as some do not. This one grabbed me right away. This book was a tribute to the Author's mother who raised him and his 11 siblings. How she raised them and sent them all to school/ college, etc. Through the telling of his Mother's life story we also learn the Author's story as well. I enjoyed how he mixed in his Mother's history with his upbringing. I thought his writing was candid, matter of fact, and frank. His mother never dis [...]

    7. The mere fact that this woman raised 12 children, sent them all to college and watched them become successful professionals, with no money, with no help from her own family members, really with not much at all except her belief in God and incredible courage; well, this qualifies her for sainthood in my book. That she did this as a white woman married to black men, loved them both, watched both of them die, then struggled on alone, is a superhuman feat. Throw in the fact that she was the daughter [...]

    8. I am so thankful this book exists. As a child of a black father and a white mother, I was immensely drawn into the narrative of James MacBride's life. My story is not one as connected to the racism he encountered, but it nonetheless moved me considerably. He paints a tender, endearing, nuanced portrait of his mother and her life and times, and manages to take a deep and conflicting life story and not sink into maudlin recollection or saccharine moralism. An amazing tale.

    9. I found this book to be very relevant to my life. My husband is black and he was raised by his white mother. He has spoken about the conflict that he felt between his white and black side, especially when he was in the Army. To white to hang out with the black guys, to black to hang out with the white guys. He felt very strongly for a long time that it was his duty to marry a black woman because he didn't want his children to feel the same conflict. Of course, that isn't what happened, because I [...]

    10. What a beautiful and poignant read. This is McBride's tribute to his white mother. HIs story touches upon issues of racism, socioeconomics, identity and religion. From a young age, McBride struggled to find where he fit into this world as a black man with a white mother. At an early age, trying to find answers, he asked his mother what colour is God. Her response, "He is the color of water." The story is juxtaposed along with his mother's, with the challenges they both faced defining themselves. [...]

    11. This book is inspirational in tone. Against all odds the author’s mother succeeded in raising twelve well-educated and remarkably successful children. This is something to applaud given her circumstances. Without money, without support from family and of a world that looked with disfavor on those who dare to beat their own drum she succeeds. Racial identity, religious beliefs and an individual’s strength of will are central themes. Here is a book that looks with depth at interracial marriage [...]

    12. I never read this book when it was first published in 1996, but it was required reading in the high school of the town where I lived after publication. In fact, I have the Tenth Anniversary edition of this book and in the Afterword, McBridge tell us by the tenth anniversary over two million copies had sold worldwide, translated into more than twenty languages, serialized in the New York Times, and studied by thousands of students each year in literature, sociology, history and creative writing c [...]

    13. Yet another book that I wanted desperately to love like everyone else. I just couldn't though. While the rest of America seemed to be inspired, I just found it mildly depressing. I hate it when that happens. Synopsis in a nutshell:Mean, stingy rabbi beats his crippled wife, makes his family miserable, and repeatedly molests his daughter.Daughter (white) gets pregnant by a man (black) and has an abortion (circa 1940s. Both actions highly illegal.).Jewish family falls apart in an irredeemably depr [...]

    14. this book spent two years on the new york times bestseller list and it's easy to see why. mcbride's "tribute" is a beautiful story, rich with detail, about his own life and his mother's. he smartly introduces almost every chapter with memories from his mother's life, in her own voice. as he tells us at the beginning and reminds us at the end, he spent 8 years talking to her and recording their conversations, so the memories in her voice are an interesting contrast to the memories in his own voic [...]

    15. This book made me feel lucky, lucky that James McBride and his mother were willing to share their story with the world. I wished I could be a family friend and get to know the characters event better. But since that isn't possible I'm glad that the author decided to write this memoir and share his family story so that people like me can experience it and learn from it.

    16. إن لم تكن تعلم فلا بد أنك قرأت شيئا أو سمعت عن تلك المعضلة في زمن الستينات والسبعينات وما قبلهمامشكلة البيض والسود العنصرية والتضييق المعيشي على كل من هو أسود في مجتمع البيضوكره كل من هو أبيض في مجتمع السودأضف على هذا الموضوع رشة يهودية أو فلنقل رشة دينية التناوب في سرد السير [...]

    17. This book had me cringing, like when Ruth McBride Jordan's father was stingy, when he was a slave driver, when he was abusive, when he was racist. It made me proud, when the author, more than once, talked about Jews who related to him like a person (instead of differently because he's black).Rachel Shilsky's family immigrated to America with her parents and siblings in 1923, when she was two. Her father was a vigorous person, a survivor, but not a good person. He had used his wife as a ticket to [...]

    18. An amazing ,inspiring story of a white Jewish woman who married a black guy and raised 12 kids and sent them all to college. They all became doctors ,engineers professors leading successful lives. She had no money just her faith in God that helped her face all the hardships in life . A great memoir that will stay with me for a long time.

    19. A interesting story that really made me reflect, and a GORGEOUSLY narrated audiobook. I had to fight my emotions a little as to not get defensive about the language surrounding Jews in the story (tyrannical, abusive, extremely cheap Orthodox Jewish father who drove his children away), and *breathe*. Yeah, it's a bit hard when Christianity is portrayed as the accepting, welcoming religion and Judaism as something oppressive, but the truth is that Orthodox Judaism itself isn't for the faint-hearte [...]

    20. We read this in my book club, and the consensus was: Incredible story, incredible journey, and in the passages narrated by the voice of his mother, an incredibly moving and authentic voice. However, this seems to suffer from its form/style - the author is trained as a journalist, and expanded an article he initially wrote about his mother and family into a book, and it reads journalistically instead of like a memoir. You feel distant and collected when you want to feel wracked with the emotions, [...]

    21. Have you ever thought about not living with your real mom after being with her while you growing up all your life. The book " The Color of Water" is about a teenage kid who thinks that hes not living with his real mother. The reason he thinks that is because they are not the same color skin and his mother wont explain why is it like that. His fathers is in jail for committing a crime so he really doesnt know alot about him because he didnt grow up with him. This kid has a lot of struggles in lif [...]

    22. لا يوجد لدي من الكلمات ما يعبر عما جعلني ذلك الكتاب أشعر به، كل ما استطيع أن أفعله هو أن اقترحه لك، ولتدعه يفعل بك ما يشاء. لا شيء لدي سوى أن أقتبس:"لم تَعُد لدي دموع لأذرفها فقد نفذت منذ زمن طويل، ولكن ألماً جديداً ووعياً جديداً قد ولِدا بداخلي"

    23. "What color is God?" asks the young James of his mother, confused by all the white images of Jesus that surround him and his black father and mother. "God's not black. He's not white. . . . God is the color of water," is the wonderful response of Rachel, an astonishingly gifted and driven woman who despite numerous adversities managed to raise, often on her own, twelve amazing children. They all grew up to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, a chemistry teacher, social worker or other kind of professio [...]

    24. Follows the typical memoir formula: Someone lives through countless tragedies and unspeakable abuse from everyone and anyone they encounter, yet manage to be extraordinarily successful--which allows them to write a self-aggrandizing book about themselves. In this case, McBride tells the story of his mother's incredibly hard life as a white Jewish woman growing up in the south, who marries a black man and ultimately raises 12 interracial children, mostly in a Brooklyn housing project in the 1960s [...]

    25. كتاب لون الماء عبارة عن سيرتين ذاتية للكاتب الأسود جيمز ماكبرايد ووالدته اليهودية البيضاء . يأخذ الحديث عن العنصرية بعداً آخر أكثر عمقاً عندما تكون التجربة من حياة الكاتب وهذا الدمج العِرقي والديني الغريب السابق لآوانه !أسرة والدته (راحيل) أقامت مراسم الحداد على روحها في عا [...]

    26. I read this book prior to my days so I've not written my own review. But I was reminded of it this morning when I found it on my PageADay Book Lover's Calendar. The following review is from that calendar.A beautifully rendered memoir, and a loving tribute to a mother who taught her son that the only identity that matters is the one you carve out for yourself. Raised in the projects in Brooklyn, young James knew his mother looked different from other mothers, but it wasn’t until he was an adul [...]

    27. Rated 4 stars Read as memoir challenge for KUYH book club. A A black man's tribute to his amazing white mother who raised 12 successful and well educated children through much hardship and personal sacrifice. When as a child he asked his mother what color God was her reply was , " the color of water. " Hence the title of this inspiring read.

    28. This book will stay with me for a long time, partly because of the vivid portrayal of the main characters and the worlds I which they live/d and partly because this adds, for me, new insights into issues of identity that arise for people with diverse cultural backgrounds. In this story, colour, race and religion are all minefields to be negotiated. Ruth, 'Mommy', deals with rejection from her own family and the many whites who despise her marriage to black men by ignoring it, shutting it out of [...]

    29. This book was a revelation full of inspiration and honesty. Being mixed, I understood James' confusion with identity, especially in his mother's time and his time as well: a time when you could only be black or white. His Jewish mother is amazing, ignoring the issue of race and encouraging her children to go to school. She is a strong woman who was able to leave her past and sorrow behind in order to find happiness, which she found in Harlem with the African American community. She fell in love [...]

    30. This story is about the daughter of an orthodox jewish rabbi who married a black man in 1942. She raised 12 children. Her children grew up not knowing anything about their mother's past. It's written by one of her sons. It is quite an amazing story. Absolutely loved the last chapter. The insights he finds on this journey helps him lay his own demons to rest.

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