An Analysis of The Color of Water

Topics: Judaism, Jews, Dave Barry Pages: 4 (958 words) Published: September 9, 2013
The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

Discussion questions

Discuss Ruth McBride's refusal to reveal her past and how that influenced her children's sense of themselves and their place in the world. Why was she reluctant to tell her children about her background? How has your knowledge—or lack thereof—about your family background shaped your own self-image?

Do you get a sense of life under the old Jewish traditions? How does that compare to the Chinese way of life in Girl in Translation?

As a child and teenager Rachel (Ruth’s Jewish name) is intensely lonely, but she does connect with one friend in high school. How does that relationship influence her?

Why did Rachel feel she had to leave home? Was her sister justified in snubbing her after she moved to New York? Is a promise a promise? What causes a family to disown a member?

Why was Ruth able to see African Americans as people deserving respect and love at a time when most whites did not view them as equal? What do you think she considered herself? She used the terms black and white to distinguish people. What did those words mean to her?

McBride writes of his mother: "She never spoke about Jewish people as white. She spoke about them as Jews." How did this attitude affect the author?

How did Ruth and her two husbands influence their children? What role did her second husband (the one James remembers) play for the children in contrast to his wife?

"Our house was a combination three-ring circus and zoo, complete with ongoing action, daring feats, music, and animals." Does Ruth’s daughter Helen leave to escape her chaotic homelife or to escape the mother whose very appearance confuses her about who she is?

"Mommy's contradictions crashed and slammed against one another like bumper cars at Coney Island. White folks, she felt, were implicitly evil toward blacks, yet she forced us to go to white schools to get the best education. Blacks could be...
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