New Summer Reading Option: The Color of Water (Juniors)

Over the next few weeks, we will be revealing the remaining titles that will become the summer reading options for the summer of 2015. Students will select one title from a list of around five novels per grade (In the subject line of the post, “Freshmen” means that the book will be read by incoming freshmen, not existing ones, etc.). 

The Color of Water by James McBride

color of water

“I’m dead.”

So begins James McBride’s memoir, The Color of Water:  A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.  It took McBride fourteen years to convince his mother, Ruth McBride, to tell her story.  What he eventually learns is that Ruth was born Rachel Shilsky, the daughter of a poor Orthodox Jewish rabbi in the anti-semitic and racist south.  Rachel crossed the color line to marry a black man in 1942, a decision that rendered her dead to her family.

Ruth, the family’s “commander in chief”, raises her 12 black children in the Brooklyn projects, presiding over controlled chaos.   Her parenting style is eccentric, but she is both fiercely loving and fiercely determined.  She sends all 12 children to college.

James tells his story through alternating chapters that give voice to his mother’s story as well as to his own search for racial identity, a journey that takes him from high school honor roll student to a life of petty crime and drugs before he finds his way to Oberlin College, becoming a musician and writer.

McBride’s memoir is funny, compelling and inspiring.  You will be moved by this exploration of race, religion, identity and family.

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