The Color of Water Book Analysis
The Color of Water is the story of James McBride’s struggles and experiences as a biracial male trying to discover himself and come to terms with his racial, cultural, religious, and social identity. James was born to Andrew Dennis McBride, an African-American minister, and Ruth McBride-Jordan, formerly Rachel Shilsky, a Jewish immigrant. His mother essentially identified as a black woman and James’s physical appearance was that of a black male. This fact appears to be the foundation of James’s questions and curiosity of his racial identity that started in his late childhood in conjunction with reactions and observations from his community and peers. James realizes that the past and present are connected and that in order to understand himself, he would have to see the world through his mother’s experience and through the cultural constructs that shaped their lives.
James was the last of eight children born to Ruth and Dennis, before his father died of cancer. Ruth then remarried to Hunter Jordan, had four more children, and raised all twelve together. James described his home life as being chaotic and curious. Ruth would constantly avoid his pressing questions about his race and about her background, causing him to wonder about his own identity. This proved to be extra difficult while coping with divided feelings of existing in a racially stratified society as a biracial male. Although he felt a deep love and respect for his mother, he yearned for the two of them to be the same.
James felt embarrassed by his mother’s white race because it was the source of his conflicting view of himself and where he fit into society. It was a constant reminder that he was different from his peers and their families who shared a common culture. James often felt guilty for his feelings of black pride and envisioned that if his family were one race, feelings such as guilt and confusion would not exist and life would be...