The Color of Water

Why did James need to know about his maternal history?

In the color of water

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James has an identity crisis through the book. His mother does not talk about her past or race much at all. James is intrigued by his mother's past which is a part of his past as well. The irony is that while memoir-writing and the act of "remembering" constitute a journey back in time, what is found there generates a possible source of new strength. Crucial to any idea of the future, the remembered history becomes a part of a person's identity, adds depth to the experience of living, and serves as a link between the present and the future. While James may not have the kind of "vision" that Ruth admires, he has the kind that is, perhaps, the necessary starting place for any fresh imagining of the future.