14 April 2011
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
James McBride was born in 1957 to Ruth and Dennis McBride and was raised in Brooklyn’s Red Hook projects with his eleven brothers and sisters (Bodhos 2). In 1997 McBride’s bestselling memoir The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother was published. The story is uniquely written in double voice with chapters alternating between chapters as the author recounts his life growing up as a biracial child and his mother recalls in detail her disownment from her Orthodox Jewish family, marrying a black man and successfully raising twelve biracial children. The connection of the two stories is compelling and readers can come to understand why certain things happened in McBride’s life through the exploration of his mothers past. But beyond all of the McBride’s struggles, it is clear what Ruth McBride valued: Community, Education and Religion. Ruth McBride had a miserable childhood. She grew up under the strict governance of her father who sexually molested her for years (Bodhos 1). Budhos wrote that Ruth escaped her grim home by crossing the formidable color line; in the thirties, she moved to New York and Harlem and married a black musician named Andrew McBride (2). When her Orthodox Jewish community learned that she had married a black man, they disowned her. The black community, on the other hand, accepted and welcomed her into their community. Ruth was very appreciative of this because she now felt that she had a private space where her biracial children could grow up. Ruth wanted the best for all twelve of her children, and sought every opportunity to see that they succeed. Although she denied her Jewish background she definitely sought a Jewish-style education for her children by sending them all to predominantly Jewish schools. Being biracial children in a Jewish school was a challenge for the children, but...