While growing up, James McBride never knew where his mother had come from. When he asked her if she was white, she simply replied that she was “light-skinned”, triggering a long-standing confusion about his own racial identity. As an adult, McBride offers the reader his story by alternating between his mother’s voice and his own. That’s one of the great things about this book. The reader gets the insights on both characters and what exactly makes them who they are.
Ruth McBride was a Jewish immigrant to the United States. After traveling around the country with her family, they settled down in Suffolk, Virginia and opened a general store, which they lived above. This general store was located in a predominately black part of town. As a Jew, she felt as though she could relate to the hardships of the black people near her. Especially since during these times, she realized that the Ku Klux Klan and the white population in general gave off a tense and violent vibe. In her adult life, she married a black man, Andrew Dennis McBride, whom she had eight children with. The family lived in Harlem, New York for years and she worked at low-end jobs. She found herself socializing with black people, and living the life of a black woman. After moving away from her family, Ruth needed a stress-reliever and converted to Christianity, which is she found her sense of relief and the power of forgiveness. After Andrew passed, she remarried to Hunter Jordan, who fathered four of her now twelve children. Hunter died of a stroke, which lead to her family’s grieving and terribly mourning Hunter’s death.
Ruth is a tough, big-hearted character. She loves her children dearly but she refuses to any questions about her past and feed into their curiosity, especially James, son of Andrew. Ruth is at times reluctant to bring up her painful past which is why she chooses to avoid it. Following her second husband’s death, Ruth began the habit of riding her bicycle through the...
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