The Color of Water by James McBride

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The Color of Water by James McBride covers a unique epoch in the history of the United States. The memoir was finished in 1996, but depicts a life story that is surreal in the mid-20th century. James McBride’s unique and skilled use of a double narrative adds a new spin to the impact of the two memoirs because both lives seem so abstract to each other but in actuality complement each other. It has a magnificent effect in the narration by keeping us, the readers, interested by taking each step with them.

The History that goes by through the course of this book is an odd combination of racism, social reform, and close mindedness. In Ruth’s upbringing the hardships of being a Jew in a Christian land is a prevalent part of how she grew up. She was feared by the dark skinned people, and shunned by the light skinned for being Jewish, leaving her all alone. Meanwhile, James grew up in a world where he was hated for being black, and confused as to who he was, was he black or was he white. These struggles took place during the time of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights movement. Ruth McBride even stays in Bronx in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. James McBride grew to have his very own brothers and sisters becoming civil rights activists. One of his siblings even became a Black Panther, a black power party. It exemplifies the struggles in his life by bringing that very same struggle to someone whom he saw every day.

The almost unbelievable stories of James McBride, and his mother Ruth McBride Jordan are so interconnected and yet worlds apart. Their relationship compares to the different poles of a magnet. On one side of the plot has a Polish Jewish woman who married an African-American with a horrible childhood, on th...

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...of calm and joy comes over him as he says, “I left for New York happy in the knowledge that my grandmother had not suffered and died for nothing.” (229) James’s realization of his mother’s past gave James his future. It was no longer a question of whether or not he was white or black, but rather it was about living a life his grandmother gave him.

James McBride ends the book on a high note leaving the conspicuous notion of the truth of life’s difficulties and the truth that things can get better. He says it in his own words and I quote, “This isn’t the movies; this is the real world…Love is unstoppable. It is our greatest weapon, a natural force, created by God.” (292) The book seems to be a collection of their lives’ tribulations all leading up to the impact of the combination of two in success, the success of a successful family and the finding of their selves.
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