The Color of Water by James McBride Essay

The Color of Water by James McBride Essay

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The Color of Water Book Review

In this memoir, the author chooses to have two narrators, himself as one, and his mother as the other. This style makes for quite an interesting story, skipping back and forth in time, from the child's life, to that of his mother. Although many time changes occur, they are quite easy to keep up with, as the two narrator's of the book, James, and his mother, alternate chapters. For this reason, it is also very easy to compare the childhood of each of the main characters. Although the chapters aren't always during the same time periods of the respective characters, they are close enough that similarities can be seen, and parallels can be drawn. This is one of my favorite parts of the novel, seeing the main character, James, grow up with his mother Rachel.
In summary, the author tells the story of both his mother, and himself growing up. His mother was raised Jewish, but became Christian before James was born, which was thus the religion he was raised in. Both had very strict discipline, in their respective religions. The memoir focuses more on Rachel, who grows up in a Jewish family living in a country and area where Jews are not well received. After surviving this, and sexual abuse as a child, Rachel goes on to run away from home, and marries a caring black man from New York. Here she settles down, has a family, and raises twelve kids, while being constantly harassed because of her marriage, as well as her children, who are all of a different color than her. After eight children, her husband dies, and she remarries to a man of similar morals, race, and discipline. James, the final child of the original father, grows up knowing only the step-father as "daddy", and suffers the hardship...


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... their time of need. This book shows what Christianity did for Mommy, and what good came of all the Jewish friends she had from before leaving the religion.
This book's structure wasn't written perfectly, and it certainly wasn't concerned with winning any awards, but it had a purpose. It gave the author a better sense of who he is, and can give many readers much more than that; valuable lessons in life. To grade this book on things such as structure, vocabulary, and even sales would be to miss the entire point of the memoir. Read it as a memoir with great insight and a damn good owners manual on how to get along in this world, and I can guarantee you won't be let down; in fact, you will probably be quite impressed. But if what you're looking for is a book that needs to live up to the standards of a great piece of literature, you're looking in the wrong place.

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