The Color of Water

Explain the narrator’s change of name—from her Yiddish name to her American name.

chapter one

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Ruth's emigration from Poland to the United States followed the basic trajectory of many new Americans who fled persecution abroad. In America, Ruth's name became Rachel Deborah Shilsky, an Americanized version of her original Polish name. The basic change in her name also marked the official change of her citizenship. Later, however, when she began going informally by "Ruth" because it sounded less Jewish, she expressed a personal choice that pointed in the direction of self-determination. She attempted to assimilate into a community that looked askance upon her Jewish heritage, increasingly viewing her parents' strict ways as "old-fashioned". She began to desire, more and more, to be "American". Her desire and rebellious character were, and continue to be, common among children who come of age in places different from the locales in which their parents were born.