The Color of Water

The Color of Water

by James McBride
4.2 397

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The Color of Water by James McBride

Look out for McBride's new book, Five-Carat Soul

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography.

The incredible modern classic that launched James McBride’s literary career.

Over two years on The New York Times bestseller list

Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared "light-skinned" woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother's past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother.

The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in "orchestrated chaos" with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. "Mommy," a fiercely protective woman with "dark eyes full of pep and fire," herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades, and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion—and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

In The Color of Water, McBride retraces his mother's footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story. The daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi, she was born Rachel Shilsky (actually Ruchel Dwara Zylska) in Poland on April 1, 1921. Fleeing pogroms, her family emigrated to America and ultimately settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. With candor and immediacy, Ruth describes her parents' loveless marriage; her fragile, handicapped mother; her cruel, sexually-abusive father; and the rest of the family and life she abandoned.

At seventeen, after fleeing Virginia and settling in New York City, Ruth married a black minister and founded the all- black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her Red Hook living room. "God is the color of water," Ruth McBride taught her children, firmly convinced that life's blessings and life's values transcend race. Twice widowed, and continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism, Ruth's determination, drive and discipline saw her dozen children through college—and most through graduate school. At age 65, she herself received a degree in social work from Temple University.

Interspersed throughout his mother's compelling narrative, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his flirtations with drugs and violence, and his eventual self- realization and professional success. The Color of Water touches readers of all colors as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440636103
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/07/2006
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 16,424
File size: 3 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, the #1 bestselling American classic The Color of Water, and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna. He is also the author of Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal in 2016, McBride is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

From the Trade Paperback edition.


Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

New York, New York


Oberlin Conservatory of Music; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

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Color of Water 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 397 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Color of Water was an excellent novel. I thoroughly enjoyed the captivating life stories of James and of his white, Jewish mother. Each narrative is carefully woven throughout the chapters of this novel, all of which were remarkable and imaginative. I would recommend the poignant and touching accounts of James and his mother to anyone of any race, any religion, and any background.
Guest More than 1 year ago
James McBride is a wonderful writer who makes the book so interesting that it is difficult to put down. That's how good the book is to read. McBride provides excellent details and gives the reader a good view of what the characters are like and what their purpose is in the story. James McBride is an author I would like to meet and I will for sure read 'The Color of Water' again and I will most definitely read more books writen by McBride. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to others. The book will, I think, give people more of an understanding of what black people had to go through in the 1990's. It will also give people an understanding of what a white mother had to go through while raising twelve black children. Over all, I think, 'The Color of Water' is a book every one should read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be very inspirational. It proves that no matter the color of your skin or the content of your background, you can make it to be anything you want to be. It makes you more aware of how times are changing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up this book, and thumbed through it, I thought that it wasn't going to be so great. Now that I have read the book, I realize that i couldn't been farther from the truth.
The switching between his story and his mother's story caught me off gaurd at first, and made me think that the two stories where about the same person. After I had read a few chapters, though, I realized that the story was being split into two different tales told by ttow different people.
Overall, this book is a great tribute to the hardships' that McBrides' mother had to endure as a child, along with the ones that she got through as an adult.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm buying this book for my seven siblings. This book brought back so many wonderful childhood memories. The places,struggles,dynamics of the family. Hard times but the best times. I laughed and I cried. The mothers strength and courage and tenacity reminded me so much of my mother. I loved this book. A day later and I'm still smiling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why are there so many bad reveiws? I showed them to my dad and he got so mad and sad that me and my brother got grounded. Jeez if you dont like something than either say it nicer or dont say it at all. P.S. my dad is James McBride
Guest More than 1 year ago
James McBride makes an outstanding performance in this book which took him fourteen years to write. The result is excellent. A beautiful honest story, full of thruths and full of life. A must-read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A path to know Ruth came in America at a tender age from Poland in 1921. The desire of her father, Tateh, to become a rabbi was the reason Ruth traveled around the country.Tateh was very prejudice,cheated on his wife and openly expressed racist opinions. Ruth did not want to have anything to do with such absurd character and converted from Judaism to Christianity. The disgust for black people by her family and her preference for black people made her own family to disowned her. The constant hardship in the south and broken relationship was a pain in her life. Harlem was the setting for the story. In Harlem, Andrews Dennis McBride married Ruth she became a christian to avoid her past life and experience. They both opened a church, New Brown Memorial Church, in memory of Reverend Brown. Dennis died of lung cancer before James was born. James last for self-identity, was the reason he weaved his own life into that of his mother. James desperate efforts to understand race, religion and work. changed his life style of drug abuse. He employed his skills in journalism and music to help him understand the intense racial difference. In my opinion, the goal he pursue was made a reality by weaving into the suffering of his mother's past life and experience. This created a path in understanding his role in employing his journalistic and musical knowledge in educating people about equality for all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. We had to read it as a school assignment, and i really thought it would be a boring killer... after i read it for school, I read it over, and over on my own spare time... Ruth is a great mother. I really recomend this book! It kept my intertained for hours!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my #1 favorite book of all times. Read it, you will love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite books growing up and stil is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for summer reading anf honestly it was one of the very best. It had a moving plot with likable characters and was just wonderul quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
who are both inter racial. Maybe they will read this and appreciate the strife I went through. It wasnt easy in the 60. The new divivion is that there is no division. Not!!! There will always be a difference. It is the person that makes it through the BS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So i am a sophomore in high school and i love to read and my sisters boyfriend who is in college wants me to read it for him and he's going to pay me. Is it worth the read? Someone please respond!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Color of Water is an easy read. I read this novel with my English Advance class and everybody seemed to enjoy it as well. The context is straight foward which makes the book fun and enjoyable to read. The Color of Water makes a great summer beach book.
Anonymous 10 months ago
The Color Of Water The color of water written by James McBride. The Novel is based on a true eventual life hardships. Story takes place when Ruth the main character Polish origin immigrated to America in late 1921 in her young age.... James the author of the Novel who has spend his young age in street crimes and later moved to the NY city where he had a rough time deals with drugs and gangsters. Tateh a Yiddish word used for father, who molisted Ruth in her childhood, Tateh was a rough and Pure Judaism believer, Due to Tateh behave Ruth converted to Christianity, The novel is a blend of Racisim, Love, family affairs, survival in hardship. there are lots of minor charasters, like Ruths sisters, Aunts, Uncles her childrens. but most of the times story reflets and reveals around James father Ruth, Jmaes,
bennysmom 10 months ago
The Color of Water is a black man's Tribute to his white mother. The two most important characters of the book is James McBride (the black man) and Ruth McBride (his white mother). James is the narrator of the book. The setting of the book takes place between the 1920s-1990s. It also takes place in New York, Suffolk Virginia, and Wilmington Delaware. The story is through James McBride and goes back and forth to his mothers past and the present time. James alternates between his own words and his mothers own words. Ruth married a black man which was forbidden. There is a couple themes in The Color of Water. The most important most important themes are racism, self-motivation, self-reliance, and the burden of secrets that are hidden in the book. My opinion of the book is that it's very good. I love how the book is through the son telling his mother's story as well as in his own words and telling his story too. The story wouldn't be the same if it was coming from someone else's eyes because you wouldn't have Jame's the author/narrator/main charterers point of view and how he lived life. The Color of Water explains him (James) coming to terms with his racial identity and his own identity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book I give a easy 5 stars due to the fact that this book deals with what life is like living with a parent who is a different race than you are. I love how this bok is written in a mother son kind of way. I believe many people can relate to this book because they also may be a victim of rasicm or rape. You learn how no one is ever raised the same as you are and that there are people who deal with animosity everyday for no good reason at all. I reaaly like this book and I rate it as one of my favorites in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The color of water is a breathe of fresh air. The color of water is a great book. It was very inspirational to me. I give it four stars. The story of a struggle Jewish woman trying to raise her mix children in poverty. The McBride's had many obstacles to over come in there lives. Having a strong mother help them on there way to becoming good citizens. She raised her kids to be strong and educated. She put her kids before anything. So I truly understand the tribute to his mother.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Color of Water is Worth Reading I have read the book called The Color of Water and I will be reviewing it. The story is about a man named James McBride and his mother, Ruth McBride. Ruth has a very rough past and hides it from her twelve children. She is white and has eight children with a black man whom she meets. She later has four more children with another man, after her lover passes away. She struggled with poverty while raising her children. Although, they went on to be successful, happy people. She taught them values such as family and religion being most important. James wants to find out more about his life so he revisits his moms' old home she grew up in. In my opinion, this is a good book. It held my interest and inspired me. It has shown me that you can overcome hardships that are unfathomable. I think that Ruth's life is very interesting and worth reading about. It also gave me a different perspective as to what life would be like in James's shoes. I would recommend the book to a friend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An Amazing story of how to survive the cruel world of racism. The story is about a women whose family immigrates from Europe to the United States during the Nazis war they are Jewish. She survives abuse by her farther (Ruth). She falls in love with African American men. She shows us how to live in a very raciest world while raising twelve kids with and with out her husbands. Her son is telling us her story, It shows that you can do anything you want in life as long as you work hard. She shows and teaches you that love knows no color or boundaries. It is a great book you learn so much from Ruth and her family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Color of Water The main characters of the book The Color of Water are James McBride and his mother Ruth. The story tells how Ruth grew up in Suffolk, Virginia. Racism was high in the period of time Ruth became pregnant by a young black man named peter, which meant they could not tell anyone about the pregnancy. Because that meant Peter would possibly be killed if they did not keep it a secret. Ruth moved away from her family, after doing so she met a man named Dennis. After they were married Ruth became a Christian. She would have James from Dennis. Ruth was deeply depressed after Dennis died from lung cancer, all the way up to meeting her second husband Hunter Jordan. I think the book was great overall. The story jumped around a lot but overall I enjoyed the book mostly because I can relate to the story in my personal life.
taesha More than 1 year ago
very interesting this is a very interesting book that will grasp your attention and keep it. The way McBride's mother, Ruth, raised her children to believe that everyone is the same is wonderful. Not once did she tell her children that she was white or they were black. This family was a very strong one who worked hard every day. Although they were not always good children, James being one of those, they all became successful in life. When reading this book you can have a clear vision as to what was going on and who was in the story. Ruth came from a very tragic childhood, but made sure her children never experienced the same thing even if she had to raise them on her own. Every person learning about the black history should be required to read this because it is a perfect example during the prejudice times. It also shows how a white mother raising 12 black children had to live knowing that whites hated blacks and one loved and raised some of her own.