The Color of Water

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As we grow older we learn a little bit more about our background and ourselves each day. Whether it is by searching and finding out on our own, or by questioning those surrounding us about their past to help us decode our true identity along the way. But how about when we are young and have so many curiosities about ourselves and ask so many questions but there are just no answers given. Do we have the right to search for those answers by experiencing different stages in life until we find our true self? Not knowing why you and your mother look so different can affect one’s sense of identity like it happened to James McBride. This is why throughout his autobiography The Color of Water, he concludes that in order to find his true identity he needs to learn about his mother’s past.

James McBride was born to a white mom and a black dad. He grew up with his mom, Ruth, living in a neighborhood where she was seen as the strange and out-of-the ordinary one. James underwent a stage of confusion during his childhood when he noticed that he and his mom had no physical similarities. He would see mothers taking their kids to school and right away notice a resemblance. But between he and his mom, nothing. Until one day as it was expected, James’ inquisitiveness kicked in and he asked Ruth why he didn’t look like her. On page 12, “I asked Mommy why she didn’t look like the other mothers...How come you don’t look like me? She sighed and shrugged. She’d obviously been down this road many times. I do look like you. I’m your mother”. Ruth evidently didn’t want to get into details and confuse James even more than what he was, so she thought the best way to respond to his question was to give him a vague answer.

Ruth didn’t realize that the more her answers were unclear to James the more confused he would be. Unaware of this matter, Ruth was affecting her son’s sense of identity. But James’ curiosity didn’t stop there. And one day after church he decided to ask his mom...
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