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I chose this book because in the description of the book it is stated that it was written in tribute to James McBride mother and to the whole family she raised. I wanted to know how extraordinary her life was. The author is an authority on the information presented because this book is the story of his life.
This book is an autobiography of James McBride where he integrates narrations made by him and Ruth, his mother. She was born in a Jewish family in Poland , but her family ran away from the Nazi Holocaust and came to America. Her father came first to America and afterwards he brought his wife, Ruth (James mother) and Sam (Ruth's brother).
During their first year they would move very often because her father was a contract rabbi. During this episode, her sister was born, however, they moved to Virginia . Despite the opposition of the Jewish congregation, her father started a grocery store in the black neighborhood. The 3 children were forced to work in that store under their father's authority. Ruth developed antisocial behaviors because her father molested her continuously. Her brother was mistreated by his father but around the age of 15, he run away to Chicago . Later he joined the army and got killed in WW1.
Ruth, fell in love for her best friend, Peter, they started dating in hiding but she got pregnant. However, she couldn't hide anymore her worries about the pregnancy. that Summer she went to New York and she decided to tell her aunt who handled everything to help her to have an abortion, which was terribly painful.
After some time, she came back home and realized that Peter was getting married against his will. She was really disappointed and realized there was nothing that would stop her going away from that city. So the next day after her graduation, she went to New York . She worked for a while for her aunt, where she met Dennis McBride. They started going out until they moved together. She went to watch her mother for a while because her mother was really sick; Ruth found out that her father was going out with another woman. her father asked Ruth to stay longer but despite everything Ruth went back with Denis. After some time her mother died.
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As a child James thought that his mother, Ruth, seemed like an odd person without perceiving the danger of living in a black neighborhood being white. the house was ruled by his mother even though when Jordan, his stepfather, was alive because Jordan used to come home just on weekends. Beginning in his school years James started to realize that his mom was different, "not black". Furthermore it was more confusing not knowing any background from her since she would be evasive with the topic. This was an issue that never went away from his mind, produced by experiencing the painful, tough and oppressive reality, the awareness that black and whites did not get along very well and the self-concept.
Ruth taught all of her children to have prioritues in being an educated person, belief in God, be confidential with personal information and having distrust og outsiders. At home he had to survive the teasing of his older brothers. The same at school, mainly being the only black face in the class (usually Jewish schools). At some point in their lives, the children had confusion with their identity and they faced it in very personal way. But as he became a college student, he started to embrace a pride of being black.
After the death of his stepfather, James got involved in illicit activities and almost dropped out of school. However, when the family moved to Delaware he tried to get away from that style of living and he put all his effort to improve in school and get control on his life.
He graduated and became a writer at the Boston Globe. And looking for his roots he took a map that his mother draw and went looking for the relatives that she left in her hometown. He met a man that certainly remembered Ruth and the rest of the family, but the last thing this man knew was that Ruth's father and sister had moved away without leaving a clue where to find them.
This information was recorded because it was important to James McBride and his brothers and sisters to express gratitude and admiration for their mother. James McBride felt a need to express the world how honored he felt of having such a brave mother who survived to the losses of her beloved husbands with 12 children. Despite the racist attitudes from that time, the poverty and the scarcity of support she gave education and good values to most of her children. He also tries to exemplify that it doesn't matter how difficult the situations in life can turn, you can always try your best and become an exceptional positive person. If you read a self-improvement book help you to see the big picture in your life. Sometimes we think that we have big problems and that there is no way to solve them; but when you see that real people like you have overcome harder and more difficult situations it makes you think that you can do it too. It makes you think in a positive way to solve or cope with your problems.
I liked this book because it shows you how Ruth and James overcame all the difficulty in their lives and they faced them even though sometimes with the shadow of giving up they became productive and benevolent people, instead succumbing maladaptive behaviors like drug addiction or suicide like some people do. Their lives are good precedent to help people get a different point of view in life and don't give up even in the toughest situation. Instead of picturing ourselves like victims, we should see ourselves like people that can help and support others, because they may be suffering tougher times than we are.