The novel, Color of Water, by James McBride details and reflects on racial prejudice from the perspective of two lives; the life of a Jewish mother, Ruth McBride Jordan, and then in the life of her black son, James.
Growing up in Suffolk Virginia, Ruth McBride was abused by her Orthodox Jewish rabbi father as she was forced to work very long hours in their family store. Since love was not something that was simply provided by her father, she instead finds love in the arms of a black man. In a turn of events, Ruth ends up marrying another Christian black man and has children with him. However, she hides her Jewish background from her children. In her family, marrying a black man is considered to be an unacceptable thing and due to this,…show more content… Nothing happening in the present worried James more than the sake of his mother’s life. Nonetheless, young James is still angry and confused as to what his heritage is. Even though his main concern is on his mother, he still questions his identity and worries for himself. He does not know his heritage and he has no clue where he belongs. How can he hate the whites if his mother is one and how can he hate the blacks if his father is one? He is absolutely torn and perplexed. His only solution to this seems to be spending a few years on the streets drinking alcohol,
abusing drugs and robbing people. Later on in the story, we discover that James is angry but does not know his reason for being angry. This only seems to perplex him even more. Soon, James accepts his family’s strategy for getting beyond racial identity by focusing on religion and education. He tells his friends that racism will be just be a thing in the past by the time they graduate, but later comes to this the realization that it will not be as he states, “instead it smashed me across the face like a bottle when I walked into the real world” (p. 204). It is only when he takes a journey into his mother’s past that he is able to balance his background and learn to love it, as proven when he says, “privileged to have from two worlds…a black man with something of a Jewish soul” (p. 103).
Although discrimination and racism is common in today’s society, it is not rare to find a child with many mixed heritages.