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on September 17, 2015
Since finishing "The Color of Water," I have recommended it to everyone I know who reads.
This should be required reading in every high school in the country. It addresses race relations; religious differences; family dynamics. And it is a loving tribute to a most remarkable mother.
The writing is outstanding; the paragraph that gives us this memoir's title is one of the most (if not THE most) memorable paragraphs I've ever read, and it is all I can do to keep from quoting it while I'm recommending this book!
I cannot believe it has taken me so many years to read "The Color of Water.". McBride has a masterpiece here.
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on May 1, 2017
I’m not a huge reader, normally it would take me over a month to finish any book. My usual feeling of trekking through the pages of a book was not, yes I said not, found in The Color of Water by James Mcbride. This book is universally relatable on so many different levels. Within most of the chapters there was something that emotionally impacted me on a certain level. This book is a roller coaster, it has it’s ups and it has it’s downs . This is why I decided to give my book 4 stars.
James Mcbride is one of twelve mixed race siblings, with a white, single, jewish mom, during the 1940’s. During that time, there was a lot of racial discrimination, along with the holocaust occurring. Throughout his memoir James not only shares his life story, but Ruth's (his mom) as well. This makes for an even more impactful story because we are seeing how Ruth grew up, and learning about the different events that has happened in her life. Knowing her background while reading the story, allows us to understand the way she has raised her children and how she handles different situations with life and/or her kids.
I’m not a mom, but I know raising 12 kids is an arduous effort. Ruth wasn’t able to keep everyone in check all the time, no matter how hard she tried. When James step-father passed away, James started to head down a bad path. His grades slipped like a man on ice, along with his behavior. He started getting involved with drugs and petty theft. When Ruth learned that James grades were slipping, and that he also was skipping school she sent him to his sister’s house down in Louisville, Kentucky. James was a mad as a bull. James ended up spending 3 consecutive summers down there. While he was down there he met a man named Chicken Man. Chicken Man played a very influential part in James life, they first met on the “corner” where a lot of the druggies or drunks could be found. While James and Chicken Man were standing on the corner, he explained to James that “everybody on this corner is smart, you ain’t no smarter than anybody here”(Mcbride 150). The Chicken Man shakes James belief that his knowledge makes him smarter than someone else. The Chicken Man shows James that all people are smart, it’s just what they do with their knowledge individualizes them.
This part of the book impacted me the me the most because i’ve started to head down bad paths in life simply because I didn’t know how to deal with the pain or emotion. During these times, my two coaches, along with my parents, are the ones that helped get me back on track. They showed me what could happen if I continued to head down the path I was on. Everyone should have a role model in their life, for James that was chicken man or his mom, and for me; my parents, along with my coaches.
This book changed my view on life and how no matter how hard times get you still need to keep going. Life is a mountain that we must continue to climb, no matter how many times we slip.It covered racial discrimination, how you can go from a bad situation and turn things around, how far religion can take you, and what you can accomplish with perseverance. James mom came from a dad who had molested her, but she didn’t let that hold her back. She went on to be married 2 times, and have 12 mixed race kids during the 1940s. She kept most of the kids in check ¾ of the time, and was able to provide for them all. Ruth, “wipes her memory instantly and with purpose” (271).She allows the bad to roll right off because she knows she has responsibilities to her kids. She is formidable, she is knowledgeable, she is unexpendable. The way Ruth raised her kids, and dealt with her own life is impeccable.
Thank you James Mcbride for giving me a new perspective on how I few things, along with having a new genre of books to read.
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on October 17, 2017
My son hates reading. He HATES IT.
Every time he has to read a book for school, I have to take the number of pages in the book, divide them by the number of days he has to READ it, and mark each day's reading block with a post it page marker. (example: 294 pages % 14 days = 21 pages per day! LOL)

That being said, this book was his 11th grade summer reading assignment and I didn't have to force him to read it! He read more than was required each day and finished the book ahead of schedule. I'd come home from work and tell him to do his reading and he would say he already had!! He even commented that the book was "not that bad" !!! WHO IS THIS CHILD?!

Admittedly, he said he knew that he was laughing at things that probably weren't supposed to be funny in the book, but whatever! I don't even care. This book engaged my son in a way no other author has managed to do. KUDOS and THANK YOU to James McBride!
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on January 29, 2014
I heard an interview of the author on CBC Radio. I was captivated by him and the story he told about his upbringing, his Mother and how he wrote her story which, inevitably, also became his story.

The trails and tribulations of a Polish Jewess who falls in love and marries an Exceptionally Kind and Generous Black Man in 1940's America is a story of immense courage and determination.

Her embrace of Christianity and the strength it gives her to rear her children is palpable in the writing of the story. The tragedy of the authors father's early death after fathering 8 children and the marriage of his Mother to another kind and caring Black Man and his untimely death after fathering another 4 children, can only make you wonder at how much it is possible for a human being to endure.

You will fall in love with the author's Mother, as I did, and you can say that she has truly lived a remarkable life. All her children are high achievers and all became successful professionals. You can't argue with success!

I think one of the lessons to be learned from this book is that the planets' greatest enemy is ignorance and it's greatest hope lies in education and knowledge.

I'm so glad that I happened to be listening to the radio when James McBride was being interviewed.

Congratulations to him on the writing of a truly beautiful book!
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on March 3, 2014
James McBride has given the reader a great insight into culture and identity. Even though most are aware that 'race' is a social construct, it has such deep realities in-bedded within the American culture. It is typical of all children to view parents as 'non-people"...someone there just to provide and nurture. It takes a lot of growing up to be able to realize that a parent had their own individual hopes and dreams and needs. It is a journey of discovery to find out just who his mother is as a person...a journey many of us have not yet attempted.
Rachel is an amazingly strong woman, who put love before all of the pressures and expectations of society, who picked herself up after each loss and endured, damaged as all of us are, but determined to move forward. She placed her children's education above all but her love of her husbands...and she selected beautiful men to be the fathers of her children. She is a woman who has much to teach all of us about being.
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on February 27, 2016
Terrific story and what a fine man James McBride grew up to be. Apparently, he was, as one would say, the black sheep in the family, but with a mother like Ruth, he just wasn't allowed to play that role very long. This books is extremely well written and a fast read. The reader is amazed again and again at the strength and courage of this loving mother. The one thing that comes through to me is that Ruth was indeed totally color blind, a rare person on this earth. I highly recommend this book to anyone who the enjoys success stories of people who overcome adversity of many sizes and forms.
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on August 8, 2015
James McBride grew up as one of twelve black children born to white, formerly Jewish, Ruth McBride Jordan. She was always dismissive when asked about her childhood and relatives and even about her race and why she didn’t look the same as her kids’ friends’ moms. The Color of Water is Ruth’s story and James’s story told in alternating chapters. Ruth McBride Jordan is a unique and determined woman. All of her children went to college, many went on to graduate school, and all were able to pull themselves out of the projects, probably thanks to their mother’s focus on education, respect, and, most of all, love. I strongly recommend this book!
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on December 18, 2017
This was an interesting look into the thoughts of the mother and of the son from a very dysfunctional family. I enjoyed the insights. That the mother is white and the son, his father and his siblings black explains the title but you'll have to read to appreciate.
The fact that the narrative switched back and forth between the thoughts and experiences of the mother and of the son was sometimes a little distracting to some in my book group but once I caught on, I found it no problem.
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I knew James McBride as an accomplished musician so was surprised to learn he was an author as well. I read the novel "The Good Lord Bird" and enjoyed it and came across this book that was listed a a prior writing. The uniform praise and robust sales made me wonder how I missed it.This one is non-fiction, the story of his white Jewish mother who with the help of two good men (some of the time), not only raised her twelve black children but got them all through college and some through graduate school then went on to earn her own degree at age 65. An amazing story of an amazing woman. If this fails to inspire, I'm afraid nothing will!
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on August 30, 2017
One of the best books I have ever read. It had me interested, intrigued, laughing and at the end in tears. A truly moving story about a very special woman. I also loved the author's book, "The Good Lord Bird" and will be reading his book about James Brown next year (all read for part of my book group).
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