The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride
Published by Riverhead Trade
From the publisher:
The Color of Water tells the remarkable story of Ruth McBride Jordan, the two good men she married, and the 12 good children she raised. Jordan, born Rachel Shilsky, a Polish Jew, immigrated to America soon after birth; as an adult she moved to New York City, leaving her family and faith behind in Virginia. Jordan met and married a black man, making her isolation even more profound. The book is a success story, a testament to one woman’s true heart, solid values, and indomitable will. Ruth Jordan battled not only racism but also poverty to raise her children and, despite being sorely tested, never wavered. In telling her story–along with her son’s–The Color of Water addresses racial identity with compassion, insight, and realism. It is, in a word, inspiring, and you will finish it with unalloyed admiration for a flawed but remarkable individual. And, perhaps, a little more faith in us all.
I’ve had The Color of Water on my TBR shelves FOREVER so I was happy to use the excuse of #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks to finally read the damn thing. It was really good – why did I wait so long?
Ruth McBride’s story is inspiring and fascinating. That she had the courage to go her own way, to leave her family and religion of origin in the name of true love and being authentically herself is inspiring. That she felt more at home among her husband’s family and friends and culture than her own is fascinating and a true testament to the fact that how a person is raised does not have to be how a person chooses to be as an adult in the world. Reading her story of how she grew up among fear and intolerance and a religious tradition that was not very favorable towards women sheds a lot of light on why she made the choice to leave that culture, but I’m sure many people grew up in a similar fashion and did not make the same choice. It was so fascinating reading about the circumstances and the series of events that led to her making the choices she did.
This book is as much about family as it is about Ruth McBride. It’s about how family can be whatever a person decides it to be – family can be created, family can become something different from what a person always anticipated they’d want as a child – family consists of many complex and nuanced relationships, there is a love/hate relationship among many members within a family. James McBride’s interactions and relationships with all of his brothers and sisters and of course, his mother, show how complex and complicated and interesting and sometimes, frankly, weird, family can be. But there is so much love in this book, love for his mother, love for his brothers and sisters, for his father he never knew and his stepfather who raised him, and pride for the woman his mother is and for the man she raised him to become.
The Color of Water is really a beautiful book, such a gorgeous tribute to an incredible woman who lived an ordinary and also extraordinary life. Highly recommended.