James McBride the color of water Essay

The book The Color of Water was written by James McBride. James McBride is an award winning writer and musician. He has been a staff writer for The Washington Post,People magazine and The Boston Globe. He is best known for his memoir, best selling Color of Water. This book talks about his family history and his mother. In 2003, He also published a novel, Miracle at St Anna, drawing on the history of African American 92nd Infantry Division in the Italian campaign.

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The book, The Color of Water is about James life and also a tribute to his polish jewish immigrant 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.

James McBride’s biological father, Andrew Dennis McBride died of lung cancer while his mother,Ruth McBride was pregnant with James McBride. After the death of her first husband, McBride’s mother married a black man from North Carolina. James’s mother eventually had twelve children, eight from her first marriage and four from her second. In 1923, Ruth McBride arrived in the United States at the age of two. The family traveled around the United States for several years, and Ruth’s father tried and failed to make a career as a rabbi. Ruth’s family settled in Suffolk, Virginia, where they opened a general store. The store overcharged the customers and made racist comments. Tateh abused Ruth when she ws child and she was demanded to work in the family store.James’s mother did not want to discuss her painful past of her abusive father, Tateh, who pushed her poor sweet mother, Mameh around like property. James grew up in a chotic family and did not have time to ask questions about racial barrier. As a child, James struggled with questions about his mother’s skin color and background, at times even entertaining the notion that he had been adopted. He also suffered the hardships of growing up in a multi-racial family, which always seems to be in the minority. The hardships that these children, James especially, and his mother endure, are depicted quite well. Each shows how strong of a person Ruth was, and also helped to strengthen the children, which would benefit them later in life. However, the most important thing was what it taught me as a reader. The way tht Ruth reacted during each of racial instances showed that you truly could ignore people that have nothing good to say, and get away with it. She taught me that there is no point getting mad on someone and ignoring and walking away is the best solution. Walking away is the symbol of strength and outweighs the fight. This memoir also teaches a good lesson on religion. Although Ruth was raised in a Jewish family that was tainted by sexual abuse, and a lack of love, she realizes by the end of the book that part of her is Jewish, and that not everything Jewish is bad. Ruth did became Christian and Jesus really helped her in her time of need; but no matter what religion, faith can help out many people in their time of need. Ruth sent her children to the best schools and wanted her children to get the best possible education. She demanded hardwork and sincerity from her children as well. Perhaps even more than she valued hard work, Ruth embraced education, not only as the means to a successful life ,but as the path to liberation. As a child, James struggled with questions about his mother’s skin color and background, at times even entertaining the notion that he had been adopted. While James was a bit young to fully understand the events of the 1960s, he experienced their impact through his older siblings. The Civil Right and Black Power movements flashed themselves in his older siblings resulting in the conflict between his mother and her older siblings. His mother largely ignored these issues, emphasizing that school, church, and family were to take priority, and that one’s private life should remain private. Later, James struggled with same issues and realized in order to understand and himself, he had to understand the background of his mother. Ruth’s statement that “God is the color of water” succinctly captures Ruth’s attitudes toward race and religion. Ruth believes that race occupies a secondary role to goodness and acheivement. When Ruth says she thinks of God as “the color of water,” she means that God is not black or white, he is not of one race or another, but of all races and none. James was very close to his stepfather and when he died when James was fourteen, James began drinking, doing drugs, and performing poorly in school. After Ruth discovered that not only were James’s grades poor, but he had been skipping school entirely, she sent him to his sister Jack’s house in Louisville, Kentucky, for the summer. James ended up spending three consecutive summers in Louisville. James had pivotal experiences in Kentucky, living with his sister Jack and her husband. In Louisville, James said he received “true street eduction”. Chicken Man was James’s favorite local man, and the one from whom he learned the most. Chicken Man recognized his failures in life, and urged James to educate himself and work hard. As a result, he became aware of the importance of taking an active role in his own life and future. This attitude inspired James to act more responsibly. He grew more self-disciplined, honing his writing and musical skills. During this time of late adolescence, he made the acquaintance of the Dawsons, whose support he appreciates. They are the first white rich people James really gets to know. James was able to turn himself around and eventually won a scholarship to study music and composition at Oberlin College. He later studied journalism at Columbia University and made a career as both a writer and jazz musician. Secrets and mysteries appear again and again in this memoir. For much of James’s childhood, he knew little to nothing of his mother’s background. Ruth simply discouraged him from his intense curiosity. In summary, to Ruth’s credit, during a time of segregation, all twelve of her children graduated from college and went on to successful careers. But more importantly, despite Ruth’s inability to address race and religion with her family, she did teach her children that love, community and family were ultimately more important.

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. According to me, the two stories, son’s and mother’s, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note.

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