The Color of Water: a Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother Book Review

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James McBride’s memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother not only tells the story of his own life but also tells the story of his mother’s life. The book looks at the author’s life experiences as a person of mixed race, his struggle with his own identity, and the discrimination that his mother, Ruth, endured from individuals due to her religion, as well as the injustices she faced from her own father due to her relationship with men of a different race and religion. While the notion of discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity may seem simplistic, this memoir recounts the plethora of instances where mother and son were faced with great injustices. The title notes that the book is a “Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother” and that it is. While James McBride looks back on his own life, the book is clearly centered around the life of his mother and the impact that she has left on his own. At times, the book can be confusing as it jumps from time period to time period and from James’ point of view to Ruth’s.

While reading The Color of Water I was consistently looking at the situations in life of James and Ruth from a social justice perspective. However, before I discuss the complex issue of social justice and its relationship to the injustices of the book, I must first define what social justice is. Social justice essentially refers to the concept in which all individuals of a society are treated fairly and receive a proportionate amount of the benefits of society. To be precise,, cites social justices as “fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.” As I will outline, there are countless instances in James McBride’s memoir in which the concept social justice was certainly not practiced.

Looking at this memoir though the...
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