Eva's blog

The Color of Water review and interview

on July 10, 2013

Understanding one’s identity is one of the topics I choose to cover in the book The Color of Water by James McBride. Paula Marantz Cohen wrote a review on this book in regards to whether including James’s mother’s, Ruth, Jewish past add a significant value in understanding his own identity. In other words, did gaining knowledge about his Jewish family affect, in any way, his “black identity”? Paula Cohen further lists the problems and questions she has with the book: James not elaborating enough on her mother’s side of the story; how it was written seemed like she truly despised her Jewish identity, which made it look like her becoming part of the black community so exceptional; James not forcing Ruth enough to reveal more of what she’s not revealing, about her past and the obstacles she faced; so she raised and sent all twelve children to high education, did being a rabbi’s daughter drove her to do that? These are some of the points Paula Cohen raised, but in the beginning she did admit that the book is being approached in a journalistic way. Honestly, I wouldn’t have thought of any these points she raised, however, she did raise a lot of valid points and have got me to think further of how I’m going to approach this topic.

(par. 12-17) – source

A primary source is always better than the secondary source. It not only gives us firsthand information about what the person has gone through, but also gives us an insight of what went on in their inner minds. In an interview with James McBride, Kim W. of University City Regional asks James if whether retelling his own personal experience was easier or was it difficult than writing a story from a fictional character’s point of view. He responded by saying that “it’s all difficult.” To James, whether it is writing about a personal experience or writing about a fictional character, the effect is the same: one would feel the same emotions and would go through the same process when putting it on paper. So besides using his book as a primary source, I can also use this interview as it contains a bit of information on how writing a memoir is no different when writing fiction. Except that when dealing with real-life events, you don’t have to think about what is going to/should happen.

(question 2) – source


Jerry Waxler writes a review regarding James McBride’s book and how Ruth’s past reflected her decisions in life and treatment of her children. In the 6th paragraph of the blog post, Jerry Waxler touches on a little bit of Ruth’s background.  Afterwards, he says that because of her experiences with being a Jew in the South and being her father’s daughter, this drove Ruth to change her path. Completely disregarding her past and family, she started her life over in a fresh new page.



One response to “The Color of Water review and interview

  1. jerrywaxler says:

    Thanks for mentioning my blog Memory Writer’s Network If you are looking for more reference material about growing up biracial, also check out Lise Funderberg’s “Black, White, and Other” – based on a series of interviews the author (also biracial) conducted. Another memoir by a biracial author is Rebecca Walker (Alice’s daughter) called Black, White, and Jewish.

    Best wishes,

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