The Color of Water

Finding Yourself: Emotions and Origins in The Color of Water 12th Grade

Growing up in a multiracial family can be confusing, especially if one’s family history has been kept a secret for years. This is the problem for James McBride, whose lifelong struggle of self-identity kept him from truly understanding and accepting who he was and where his family came from. The Color of Water depicts the life of James McBride, a Jewish African American young man who is in search of his self identity, and his mother, Ruth McBride, a devout Christian woman who was born and raised as a Jew but refuses to tell her children about her troubling past. James demonstrates that in order for one to be able to find their self-identity, they must first understand where they come from.

Raised by his white mother, James often spent most of his childhood feeling confused about his identity because of his mother’s secretive past. His mother, Ruth, chose to never speak about her childhood or her family, and instead focused on promoting religion, education, and privacy to all her children. “She insisted on absolute privacy, excellent school grades, and trusted no outsiders of either race. We were instructed never to reveal details of our home life of any figures of authority: teachers, social workers, cops, storekeepers, or even...

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