Reading, Reviews

Review: “The Color of Water”


Cover retrieved from Goodreads

Rating: 5/5

A poignant memoir and autobiographical journey.

Want something real? Read this. 

The Gist

James McBride was one of twelve black children raised by his white Jewish mother, Ruth McBride Jordan. She survived two husbands before working as a single mother to ensure each of her children received excellent education. Though their income was barely enough, she never wavered, stressing two components as the keys to success: God and education.

McBride guides his readers through his childhood, adolescence, and ending in his adult life. He explores the racial tensions he and his family faced and how the influences that shaped his response. Sandwiched between his narrative is his mother’s memoir, which recounts her troubled past that sculpted her into the unstoppable woman she’d become.

Ultimately, you learn to know the hearts of these two courageous human beings. And their stories are more than inspiring. Their perspectives on poverty, family, religion, and race are life-changing.

Quality of Story: 5/5

McBride chose his life’s moments carefully when sharing the highlights of his growing up. Just as similarly, the interviews of his mother were well-placed, potent, and poignant.

The pacing and balance in the two-part memoir left me content. (Though I’m definitely going to want to sit down and talk over tea with Ms. Ruth McBride in Heaven.)

Quality of Character Development: 5/5

McBride’s and his mother’s voices were unique, humorous, touching, and individual. Their stories consisted of magnificent introspection, allowing the reader the delve into the minds of real people who lived and loved well. By page 285, I’d walked a thousand miles in two persons’ pairs of shoes. I knew them, or at least knew them as well as they let me. And to me, that means FANTASTIC character development.

Quality of World: 5/5

I have no shame in admitting I’ve never been to New York. Neither have I been to many of the towns that McBride’s family traveled to. Yet I fully pictured the cramped Red Hooks Projects, the Klu Klux Klan marching past young Ruth’s family’s store in Suffolk Virginia, and her bow-legged walk down Brooklyn’s streets.

Because McBride took me there.

For Those Into Technicalities: Writing Style? Um, yes.

Both memoirs narrated in first-person point of view? Check. 

Detail-packed with good flow? Check. 

Balance of internal thoughts and physical actions? Check.

McBride simply has a undeniable talent for the written word. #respect

Later he wondered if he was different, too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. ‘You’re a human being,’ she snapped. ‘Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody!’

And when James asked what color God was, she said, ‘God is the color of water.'”

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

Memoirs aren’t my go-to genre. But with skin color still very much being a charged issue, having evolved but still drawing lines of division between political parties, neighbors, and friendships, this story is necessary.

It’s necessary because it’s true. It’s necessary because it bridges a chasm that some today will say is impassable.

Young James McBride by Emma Brenner, charcoal & chalk pastel

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