The Color of Water

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Whitney Johnson-Jackson
LBST 2212-112
Ms. Cochran
February 14, 2012
The Color of Water Reflective Writing 1

Throughout my reading of this prolific non-fiction novel, one thing that seems to keep appearing frequently in my reading is the burden of secrets and their effects, more specifically with Ruth and her Jewish family. Ruth’s family was kept a secret for the majority of her own children’s adolescent years. Her desire to never speak of the relatives that claimed her “dead” seemed to haunt Ruth and deter her relationship with her own children. Secrets and mysteries appear often in this memoir; for much of James’ childhood, he knew little to nothing about his mother’s Jewish background, Ruth simply discouraged him from such intense curiosity. His mother’s secrecy as well as his desire to know of his own hidden roots is what inevitably drove him to write this novel. Furthermore, in her years as a young Jewish woman living in Suffolk, Virginia, Ruth at one point became pregnant with a child from her boyfriend Peter who was African-American. In the late 20’s and 30’s, biracial relationships were unspoken of; black men were often times shot or lynched for even looking in the same direction as a white woman. Ruth knew that she could not confide in her immediate family and so her mother, after finding Ruth’s bracelet in the back alley in which the blacks lived, suggested that Ruth go and live with her grandmother in New York. Additionally, Ruth also kept the terrifying secret of the sexual abuse inflicted on her by her father, Tateh which caused her to fear and even despise him. These ominous secrets from the past continued to linger into the present and seemed to complicate the relationship of James and his mother as well as Ruth with the rest of her children.
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