The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
By James McBride
In The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, McBride tells of his childhood, family, and of the issue of race that ultimately colored his life while growing up in predominantly black neighborhoods, where his white mother stood out like a sore thumb. McBride’s mother was a Polish Orthodox Jew who was born Rachel Shilsky in Poland on April 1, 1921. She migrated to America with her family during the early nineteen twenties they and they settled in Suffolk, Virginia. In Virginia, Ruth was subjected to anti-Semitism from the community and abuse from her father. At age seventeen Ruth fled Virginia and settled in New York City, where she married James’s father, a black minister. Because this was a time when mixed race marriages were still frowned upon by both whites and blacks, their family always stood out as different. After his death sixteen years later, Ruth married another black man who took care of her and her eight children. They later had four more children, bringing the grand total to twelve. Ruth taught her children growing up that “God is the color of water,” firmly convinced that life’s blessings and life’s values transcend race, and with this attitude she continually confronting overwhelming adversity and racism. Race was always an issue his mother avoided discussing with him, because to her it was not an issue. It was not until the James began writing this book that his mother agreed to talk about the issue of race within the context of her own life with him. It is from this dialogue that The Color of Water emerges, and it is a fascinating look at the issues of race and identity within our society experienced firsthand by McBride’s and his mother.
The Color of Love
By Gene Cheek
The Color of Love by Gene Check, tells the story of his childhood in 1950s North Carolina, where he grew up poor and white. After years of living with a drunken and abusive husband, Cheek’s mother finally separated from her husband in 1961 in Winston–Salem, North Carolina. After leaving his father, his mother began a clandestine relationship with a black man named Cornelius Tucker, who was everything her husband was not. Gene was enlisted by his mother to keep their secret, and their undercover life as an interracial family was begun. They managed to keep the relationship quite until his mother became pregnant and gave birth to a brown-skinned baby. In the face of rabid racial attitudes and Klan violence, Cheek’s mother and Tucker remained steadfast. But his vengeful father and other family members testified against the mother in a custody case that carried the threat of prison for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law. When the judge ordered her to give up one of the children, the author took the choice out of his mother’s hands when he elected to leave the family and become a ward of the state. In the narrative, Cheek recalls the horrendous choices that were forced upon both him and his mother and he recalls the painful guilt his mother suffered and the seething hatred he felt for years. The Color of Love, is an eye-opening story of love, forgiveness, and racial hatred set in the segregated South.