Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review - The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

Title: The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother 
Author: James McBride
Year: 1997
Page: 336
Genre: Non-fiction: Memoir

New to me author? Yes
Read this author again? Probably not
Tearjerker? No
Where did it take place? US
FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
Order this book ... and please don't be put off by its pallid subtitle, A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, which doesn't begin to do justice to the utterly unique and moving story contained within. The Color of Water tells the remarkable story of Ruth McBride Jordan, the two good men she married, and the 12 good children she raised. Jordan, born Rachel Shilsky, a Polish Jew, immigrated to America soon after birth; as an adult she moved to New York City, leaving her family and faith behind in Virginia. Jordan met and married a black man, making her isolation even more profound. The book is a success story, a testament to one woman's true heart, solid values, and indomitable will. Ruth Jordan battled not only racism but also poverty to raise her children and, despite being sorely tested, never wavered. In telling her story--along with her son's--The Color of Water addresses racial identity with compassion, insight, and realism. It is, in a word, inspiring, and you will finish it with unalloyed admiration for a flawed but remarkable individual. And, perhaps, a little more faith in us all.

First Sentence:
As a boy, I never knew where my mother was from -- where she was born, who her parents were.
Why did I pick this book?
Book club pick.

My thoughts:
  • I was excited to read this book as I enjoy reading memoir, and this sounds like an interesting read. I was looking forward to it as the book club pick so far had been so-so (granted, I joined the book club so I'd read more books I generally won't choose, so it is to be expected that I haven't really loved any of them yet)
  • I thought it was just okay, so I was a bit disappointed that it didn't live up to my expectation. I guess the reason being it wasn't as emotional a read as I was hoping. I was hoping to read a story that would made me cry
  • In the beginning I was a bit confused about the 2 narratives (James' and his mother's) so I got confused about what is happening to who and when. The mother's perspective was written in italic which made it difficult to read - I don't mind italic if it's just a paragraph or so, but not if it went for pages.
  • I felt the saddest for James' maternal grandmother - such a tragedy figure. I would've liked to hear more about her.
  • It was also heart warming to read James' mother was able to meet two men who loved her so much - some people couldn't even meet one person like so in their lifetime!
  • Overall, just an okay read for me... maybe I had high expectations. Everyone else except one person liked the book in the book club. 

    Rating: 3 Stars

    Have you read this book? 
    If you have, I would love to hear what you think! I'll link your review here if you wish!

    100+ Reading
    Memorable Memoir


    1. Ordinarily I dislike memoirs but I loved this book. It was so different, and I found it very inspirational. Twelve kids though and no money - can you imagine?!!

    2. @rhapsodyinbooks - you're right, I can't imagine putting 12 kids through college, and all of them seem quite accomplished! If you find that inspiring, you should give this other memoir a try: The Promise: How One Woman Made Good on Her Extraordinary Pact to Send a Classroom of 1st Graders to College by Oral Lee Brown. As the title said, she put a class through college, and they aren't her kids!

      My review here: