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The Color of Water is a memoir and autobiography of James McBride, first published in 1995. It is also an honor for his mother. The chapters alternate between the description of James McBride's early life and the first-person accounts of his mother Ruth's life, usually before the birth of her son. McBride describes the conflicting emotions that he suffered as he struggled to figure out who he was since his mother described the hardship she had to overcome as a white Jewish woman who married a black man in 1942. The use of dual narration by James McBride, unique and skillful, includes a new dimension to the effect of the two memoirs as the two lives seem abstract to each other but, in reality, complement each other. It has a huge impact on the narrative, making the readers eager to take each step with it. In the autobiographies of the author and his mother, they have always been discriminated against in certain areas due to their religious views. The tribulations and trials that these two characters face have educated readers universally that every person faces difficulties in their life, but they can overcome them.
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The Color of Water follows the life of the narrator and author James McBride and his mother Ruth McBride through their childhood — when they were both embarrassed by their mother through a part of their lives where they started to admit that they were proud. In addition, this memoir is unique in that McBride skillfully aligned his story with the story of his mother, using a dual narrative that contributes to the theme of self-identity. In the novel, McBride explores the identity and self-awareness of a multinational family. McBride gradually explores his identity and self-esteem from his multiracial family and gradually establishes his identity using two diverse descriptions. By combining the two narratives at the end, the author also mentions that the two narratives had different upbringings initially, but they understood each other's standpoint.
At the beginning of The Color of Water, the author introduced his mother to a particular aspect of her background. She mentioned how she grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family and narrated her parents. Ruth's father was a very rude and cold person who did not care much for the welfare of his children, while her mother had a very kind and sweet nature. Also, she discusses how her family came from Poland but decided to shift to America due to the fear of being dominated by the Russian government. There are similarities in oppressive behavior between outside forces that show a problem for Ruth's family. As Ruth's family was orthodox Jewish, there were high differences between strict customs and rules. This determined problem affected the rest of her upbringing into adulthood.
In the beginning, the dual description of the text provides a unique combination of perspective and chronology. The remarkable factor is the use of the rhetorical strategy of the parallelism and alternate chapter. When McBride significantly integrates chapters related to his mother and his own life, it is seen. It allows one to see the parallelism between two lives and know Rachel's life's importance in McBride. For example, McBride puts the chapters entitled "School" and "Shul" side by side, each providing an overview of the problems they face in school. James and Ruth were trying to fit in but were rejected because of social and racial conflicts.
McBride gave this sense of kinship was when he understood that he had a history of loneliness and pain with his grandmother. In that paragraph, he enlightens that after discussing his misery in Suffolk, he suddenly realized that his grandmother also felt "pain and loneliness" in the same place. Also, the author knew he was not alone. For the rest of McBride's life, he felt isolated because he could not easily recognize one race or another. At the moment, he observed that the feeling of being shunned, lost, and homeless is not the only problem universally.
This author marks the emotional climax to The Color of Water. The life of McBride was determined by uncertainty and disconnection. As a child, he learned that his family was different when he realized that his mother was different from other's mothers. Having a biracial child with only one white parent proved tougher because he grew up and faced more stress from his peers. At this point, he felt so isolated that he became angry at the boy in the mirror (his reflection) doesn't have to worry about having a white mother. The confusion didn't stop while he got older. He almost dropped out of school, joined a black soul band, hung out with burns on the corner, and befriended all the radical black students in the university. McBride spent most of his life attempting to establish a black identity for himself. Therefore, his moments in Suffolk, walking along the canal and feeling connected to his dead grandmother, feeling relieved and free from the desire to find what he was seeking. In the past, he strained to define himself the way he sees himself (defined by society); he knew who he was: a person from a rich ethnic background, but a human after all.
In summary, the use of dual narrative in the Color of Water is very efficient because it shows the thoughts of both narrators. The alternated chapter gained momentum for the text and predicted events in McBride's life through his mother and implied the similarity between them. Since the different narratives show similarities between the two stories, the Color of Water reaches nuance and complexity. However, the rhetorical strategies and the parallelism of different issues contribute more to the sense of the novel's message, when James and Ruth ultimately reunite with the past and when Ruth could help James realize his origins. In addition, the history that goes through this novel is an unusual combination of close-mindedness, racism, and social reform. The stories of James McBride and his mother, Ruth McBride Jordan, are almost incredibly involved, but the world is different.
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