The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride is a memoir that, according to the blurb, tells the story of a rabbi’s daughter, born in Poland and raised in the south, who fled to Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church and put 12 children through college. However, the book actually tells two stories–the mother’s story and the son’s story.
The first chapter, which reads more like a prologue, is entitled “Dead,” introduces the mother and begins her story. This one-word title, and the mother’s tone as I read, held my attention. By the time I finished the short chapter (only two and-a-half pages), I wanted to know more about the mother’s story.
I love how the memoir is structured–vacillating back and forth between the mother and the son’s stories. The son’s story is centered on growing up in Harlem as the youngest child of a Jewish mother and black father during the 60s and 70s. After reading the second chapter of the mother’s story (chapter 3), I was completely enthralled with her story.
Although the story has a strong theme of love and family, the theme that resonates with me is rejection and how, in the end, as painful as it was for the mother, she was blessed with 12 children and she accomplished what she sought out to do with them. This memoir shows that all things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose
I recommend this book to anyone that is interested in the 60’s and 70s, historical books with black themes, race books and books about interracial families.