The Color of Water – James McBride

Although this blog was built on my love for music, I’ve been wanting to expand on the topics I write about. I want this blog to be fun for me and I hope in my fun that you have fun reading it.

As I kid I loved reading, the idea of just delving into a good book and immersing myself into a completely different world was what I gravitated towards. Once I got to college that love subsided because I no longer read for enjoyment but for the purpose of writing this paper or taking this exam. Recently, I decided I wanted to go back to my roots, reading not just for the sake of my career choice or for the next exam but to expand my mind and imagination. So in making this decision, I’ve already gone through two books, one of them being The Color of Water by James McBride.

This book is a dedication to the author’s Jewish mother and his struggle in growing up as a half black, half Jewish kid in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Not only is he trying to find his identity, he’s trying to understand his mother who’s made it a point to never talk about her troubling past. Throughout this book, James talks about his life as one of twelve kids living in an all black project and his quest as to whether to embrace his black side, the Jewish side he knows little of or if it’s even possible to find a balance.

Without giving away too much of the story, James in essence figures a way to truly understand the struggle that his mother endured coming to America as an immigrant with a strict Orthodox Jewish rabbi as a father and despite the odds falling in love with a black man during a time this was deemed unacceptable.

In an odd way, this story resonated with me as I was able to understand the confusion of James and his identity. For myself, having immigrant parents the struggle was familiar. When you have parents who travel to America to create a better life for themselves as well as for their children, they see the world from a different perspective. Like James, I struggled with whether I should identify as black or Haitian. While this may seem like one in the same, it’s completely different as there is a completely different mindset in upbringing. I would see my black friends who did things like have slumber parties and how they interact with each other, I realized it was completely different with how Haitians did things and interact with each other.

I remember being jealous of my black kids and the things they could do whereas my parents strictly enforced that I was to focus on school and church (similar to the author’s mother). My father would always tell me that even though I was born in America, he wasn’t raising me as an American kid. I always struggled with this because it never made any sense to me because I didn’t carry any Haitian experience, but as I got older I began to understand. I’m fortunate to be able to see the world from both a Haitian and American perspective and being able to embrace both sides as who I am and that one doesn’t have to be separate from the other. I’m able to learn about my parent’s past and see that they went through so much so that I can achieve whatever I want with God on my side and an education that no one can take from me.

This may not be a book review where I go into detail about what was good and bad about the book but it is one I recommend, whether you’re mixed or not, with immigrant parents or not. There’s a lot of good lessons to glean from this book and so if you can find the time to pick up a book, add this to your list.

I’ll talk about my 2nd book shortly, I’ve already started my third book….

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