The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

Ruth McBride is a remarkable woman. She was a Polish Jew whose family emigrated to America when she was a small child. Her family settled in rural Virginia, not a welcoming place for Jews at that time. As an adult, she moved to New York City, married a black man (then another, after her first husband died), and converted to Christianity. She raised twelve equally remarkable children.

Her son, James McBride, tells her story by alternating chapters told from her point of view about her early life with chapters told from his point of view as a child and young adult. It’s a fascinating, incredibly moving memoir that deals very directly with racial identity and religion.

While reading this book, I alternated between crying and laughing out loud. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand race, religion, or humanity more generally. It’s an exceptional book by a man who was raised in a chaotic household by a flawed, remarkable woman.

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