The Color of Water

The Color of Water

A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

Book - 1997
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'James McBride evokes his childhood trek across the great racial divide with the kind of power and grace that touches and uplifts all our hearts.' - Bebe Moore Campbell 'A triumph...The two stories, son's and mother's, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note at a time of racial polarization.' - The New York Times Book Review
Publisher: New York : Riverhead, 1997
ISBN: 9781573225786
Characteristics: xvii, 291 p. : ill. ; 21 cm


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McBride’s revealing memoir also uncovers the remarkable story of his mother, Ruth. Through weaving the story of his childhood with that of his mother’s narrative, McBride offers an inspiring and uplifting tribute to his family as well as to the human spirit which can transcend the barriers of race, class, and generation.

Nov 01, 2016

A loving and well written book, part biography and part memoir as the chapters alternate between the author's life growing up in Brooklyn's Red Hook housing project and the recounting of his mother's life in Suffolk, Virginia as the victimized daughter of a Jewish rabbi.

Jul 27, 2016

James McBride -- where have you been? Sorry I never read this book earlier. It is truly a classic.

May 04, 2016

An amazing book. Not only is it very well written, but the true story is fascinating: a Jewish white mother who will not admit she is white. Because of the so-called dysfunctional situation being infused with so much love, the children turned out just great, by all accounts. I would highly recommend this book.

Mar 06, 2016

A true story about a selfless and gutsy woman who sees everyone through the same lens regardless of race or religion. Her life was not an easy one.

ehbooklover Mar 20, 2015

An interesting and eye-opening read. My only issue with the book is that I found that it was hit and miss in terms of keeping my interest: the mother's story was much more interesting than that of the author's.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 09, 2014

An inspiring, unforgettable unfolding of two lives: the author's mother's -- a woman of remarkable strength who flees the South and her Orthodox Jewish family and co-founds a Baptist church in Harlem with her black husband, and McBride's -- one of her twelve children. An inviting read, full of strength and spirit, pain, and humour.

Nov 08, 2014

This book is not only about a piece of Tobias Wolff's childhood, but it also connects to our own childhood. The book emphasizes our struggle to find our own identity and our inability to make a decision.

Young Love Jul 29, 2014

When I saw this book was a biography I thought it would be boring and just with non personal information, but then I read it. This book was amazing it was so personal and the writing style allowed you to really see and feel what the author was writing. Everyone should read this book

Sep 30, 2013

This extraordinary book, about a remarkable family and an indomitable mother, is written with grace, humor and above all love. The black author has written a tribute to his white Jewish mother, who married two fine black men and raised 12 black children--all of whom graduated from college and became doctors, teachers and, in the case of the author, a writer and musician. Race is an important part of the book, but it rises above racial matters to a level of universal humanity. I was touched by almost every chapter. The book has become a classic--deservedly so.

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Jul 17, 2017

Now, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. My view of the world is not merely that of a black man but that of a black man with something of a Jewish soul. I don't consider myself Jewish, but when I look at Holocaust photographs of Jewish women whose children have been wrenched from them by Nazi soldiers, the women look like my own mother and I think to myself, There but for the grace of God goes my own mother-and by extension, myself.

SnoIsleLib_BrianH Jun 22, 2017

“The plain truth is that you’d have an easier time standing in the middle of the Mississippi River and requesting that it flow backward than to expect people of different races and backgrounds to stop loving each other, stop marrying each other, stop starting families, stop enjoying the dreams that love inspires. Love is unstoppable. It is our greatest weapon, a natural force, created by God.
― James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

SnoIsleLib_BrianH Jun 22, 2017

“I asked her if I was black or white. She replied "You are a human being. Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!”
― James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother

Jul 27, 2016

"Go away!" I shouted to the boy in the mirror. "Get on out!"

Violet_Lion_31 Aug 01, 2013

"...I resolved to jump back into my studies and rebuild myself. Like my own mother did in times of stress, I turned to God. I lay in bed at night praying to Him to make me strong, to rid me of anger, to make me a man, and He listened, and I began to change."

Violet_Lion_31 Aug 01, 2013

"Mommy's tears seemed to come from somewhere else, a place far away, a place inside her that she never let any of us children visit, and even as a boy I felt there was pain behind them."

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Violet_Lion_31 Aug 01, 2013

Violet_Lion_31 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

death0217 Jul 24, 2012

death0217 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 12 and 6

Fastgirl124 Jul 06, 2012

Fastgirl124 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Brown_Dog_365 Jun 27, 2012

Brown_Dog_365 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over


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Jul 27, 2016

Subtitled – A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother, McBride takes us to the public housing projects of New York City where he and 11 brothers and sisters live. They are all black. James knows there is something different about his mother. When asked, she would declare – “I’m light-skinned,” and change the subject. As years went by, James learned about his mother, her Jewish background and the mysteries of her life that unfolded, bit by bit. In short, Ruth McBride eventually told him her story of being a rabbi’s daughter, born in Poland and raised in the South, who fled to Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put the twelve children through college.

This book is also on the list of 75 best books in the last 75 years. An engrossing story and on the best-seller list back in the mid- to late-90s. It is truly a classic.

Brown_Dog_365 Jun 27, 2012

This book is about a man who is writing about his mother's life. The mother was a Jewish woman, who in the 1950s married an African American man. She was "thrown" out of her family for what she had done, and her and her children were made fun of by other people. She never really talked about race and her life story with her children, and so they lived a very closed life style. They didn't ever think about pressuring their mother for the information that they desperately wanted to know about. They grew up in poverty, but they always managed to make it by. And to top that off, everyone was sent to college and became very successful people. Finally James McBride one of the twelve children finds out about their mother's life, and then writes a book about it. The story is a wonderful one, and is sure to bring tears of joy and sadness to your eyes.


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