James McBride's The Color of Water Essay

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James McBride's The Color of Water

James McBride's memoir, The Color of Water, demonstrates a man's search for identity and a sense of self that derives from his multiracial family. His white mother, Ruth's abusive childhood as a Jew led her to search for acceptance in the African American community, where she made her large family from the two men she marries. James defines his identity by truth of his mother's pain and exceptionality, through the family she creates and the life she leaves behind. As a boy, James questions his unique family and color through his confusion of issues of race. Later in his life, as an adolescent, his racial perplexity results in James hiding from his emotions, relying only on the anger he felt against the
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This is fueled by, not only the changing emotions that teenagers typically endure, but also by the death of his stepfather, whom he saw as his own father. After his death, James cannot bear to see his mother suffer, for she no longer knows how to control the dynamics of the family and "wandered in an emotional stupor for nearly a year." James instead turns to alcohol and drugs, dropping out of school to play music and go around with his friends, which James refers to as "my own process of running, emotionally disconnecting myself from her, as if by doing to I could keep her suffering from touching me." Instead of turning to his family and becoming "the king in the house, the oldest kid," James "spent as much time away from home as possible… absolve[ing] [himself] of all responsibility…" As a result, Ruth sends James to live with his older half sister and her husband, in an attempt to straighten her out her son's life. James distracts himself with the life he found there, spending the summers on a street corner with his half sister's husband, Big Richard, whom he adores, and the unique men that frequented the area. During these summers, James discovers "[He] could hide. No one knew [him]. No one knew [his] past, [his] white mother, [his] dead father, nothing. It was perfect. [His] problems seemed far, far away." Instead of facing the realities of loss and anger in his family, James seeks distractions
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