The Color of Water by James McBride covers a unique epoch in the history of the United States. The memoir was finished in 1996, but depicts a life story that is surreal in the mid-20th century. James McBride’s unique and skilled use of a double narrative adds a new spin to the impact of the two memoirs because both lives seem so abstract to each other but in actuality complement each other. It has a magnificent effect in the narration by keeping us, the readers, interested by taking each step with them.
The History that goes by through the course of this book is an odd combination of racism, social reform, and close mindedness. In Ruth’s upbringing the hardships of being a Jew in a Christian land is a prevalent part of how she grew up. She was feared by the dark skinned people, and shunned by the light skinned for being Jewish, leaving her all alone. Meanwhile, James grew up in a world where he was hated for being black, and confused as to who he was, was he black or was he white. These struggles took place during the time of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights movement. Ruth McBride even stays in Bronx in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. James McBride grew to have his very own brothers and sisters becoming civil rights activists. One of his siblings even became a Black Panther, a black power party. It exemplifies the struggles in his life by bringing that very same struggle to someone whom he saw every day.
The almost unbelievable stories of James McBride, and his mother Ruth McBride Jordan are so interconnected and yet worlds apart. Their relationship compares to the different poles of a magnet. On one side of the plot has a Polish Jewish woman who married an African-American with a horrible childhood, on the other it narrates the perspective of an African-American boy born into a liter of twelve with a white mother and black father in a time period with an African-American Revolution beating its drums outside his door. The number of taboos broken just adds to the significance of combing the two lives into one story.
Through out the memoir we live their lives and see each step of the way to get to where they are at the time of its writing. The step by step path shows how they each grew despite the things thrown in front of them. James McBride purposeful set up of the memoir to show their progression through the individual trials of their own lives is a buildup the end connection of the two narrations at the end of the novel. From early-childhood to well into adult-hood they walked, ran, crawled, and clawed their way to where they are today. The combination is also especially more effective due to the hopelessness that each of them feels in their lives. Ruth feels the misery of her ordeals in her love lives with African-Americans. She falls in love inevitably with...