As a boy in Brooklyn, James McBride knew that his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say, "I'm light-skinned". Later he wondered if he was different too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. "You're a human being", she snapped. "Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!" When James asked what the colour of God ...
As a boy in Brooklyn, James McBride knew that his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say, "I'm light-skinned". Later he wondered if he was different too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. "You're a human being", she snapped. "Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!" When James asked what the colour of God was, she said, "God is the colour of water". As an adult, McBride finally persuaded his mother to tell the story. Her story was of a rabbi's daughter, born in Poland and raised in the South, who fled Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put 12 children through college. This is James McBride's tribute to his eccentric and determined mother, and an exploration of what family means.
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This book is, indeed, a tribute to the author's mother. In it, the author, a man whose mother was white and his father black, tells two stories: that of his mother and his own. Tautly written in spare, clear prose, it is a wonderful story of a bi-racial family who succeeded and achieved the American dream, despite the societal obstacles placed in its way.
Jan 28, 2009
"God is the color of water"
In his book, The Color of Water, James McBride tells the story of his mother's life and the story of his own search for identity. It is the remarkably moving story of a young woman who is compelled to leave her home, her family, and her Orthodox Jewish faith and heritage behind her. Rachel Shilsky moves from Virginia to Harlem and marries Dennis McBride, a Christian black man. When her family learns what she has done, the entire family (collateral relatives included) declare Rachel dead and sit shiva. At that point, Rachel realizes that all ties to her past are severed. She becomes a Christian, changes her name to Ruth, and wholeheartedly throws herself into her new life without a backward glance. She founds the New Brown Christian Church in the Red Hook projects in Harlem, and raises twelve outstanding and highly accomplished children.
Ruth's path in life is filled with crises, obstacles and painful situations. But Ruth's journey is one that is driven by love, compassion and determination. Fortunately, Ruth is equipped with a strong will and an amazing insight. When one son asks her the color of God's skin, her response is "God is the color of water". Like everyone else in this world, Ruth makes mistakes and has to deal with personality flaws. This woman does so with (and by) grace.
James McBride shares his personal struggles as well. Throughout the majority of the book, young James grapples with racial identity issues, anger and anxiety. When James loses his stepfather in his early teens, his grief is so profound that he becomes unmoored for a few years. I am mixed race and was raised in a household of conflicting ideologies. I have to say that James McBride puts my feelings about my mixed upbringing into words -- and he gets it right.
I alternately cried and laughed as I worked my way through the final five chapters of the book, its epilogue and afterword. I identified with virtually every sentence. All of us have something to learn from Ruth McBride and her family. This book has my highest recommendations.
Jul 2, 2007
VERY INTERESTING READ
ENJOYED BOOK, GOOD CONTENT , INTERESTING BIOGRAPHY
May 17, 2007
This book was so inspiring and full of perseverance. The end result of so much struggling is the most beautiful payoff I've ever seen.Three Thumbs Up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Publishers Weekly, 1996-01-15 Writer and musician McBride recounts a telling conversation with his mother: "Am I Black or White?" "You're a human being. Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!" With the help of two remarkable African American husbands (James is the youngest of eight McBride kids; his father, Rev. Andrew McBride, died before he was born in 1957, and four more children were born during a second marriage), Ruthie Shilsky McBride Jordan infused her children with two valuesæa respect for education and religious belief. What makes this story inspiring is that she succeeded against strong oddsæraising her family in all-black lower-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City, where opportunities for her children to get into major trouble abounded; how she did this is what makes this memoir read like a very well-plotted novel. An orthodox Jew born in Poland and raised in the South, Ruthie's early life included her abusive father, an itinerant rabbi who ran a grocery store where he exploited his black customers; a caring but helpless mother crippled by polio, who spoke no English; and a hardscrabble childhood in rural Virginia, where she was shunned by whites and blacks alike, because she was a Jew and also for her father's business practices. McBride skillfully alternates chapters relating his life story and his coming to terms with his mixed ethnic and religious heritage with chapters conveying his mother's travails and her development into a fervent Baptist; the latter in her own voice. This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by people of all colors and faiths. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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