James McBride


Around the narrative of Ruth McBride Jordan (Rachel Deborah Shilsky), the daughter of an angry, failed Orthodox Jewish rabbi in the South. Her son James writes of the inner confusions he felt as a black child of a white mother and of the love and faith with which his mother surrounded their large family. The result is a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother.


1997 ALA Notable Book



James McBride is a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People, the Wilmington (Del.) News Journal, and The Washington Post. In addition, his work has appeared in Rolling Stone, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, US, and Essence. He is also a professional saxophonist and composer and the recipient of the American Music Theater Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award for his work in musical theater composition. He has written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., and Gary Burton. A graduate of Oberlin College, he holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University. He is married with two children and lives in South Nyack, New York.


"The two stories, son's and mother's, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note."
--New York Times Book Review

"Superbly written...a moving and exciting story that totally satisfies."
--Boston Globe

"Lively...a well-written, thoughtful contribution to the literature on race."
--Washington Post Book World

"The Color of Water [will] make you proud to be a member of the human race."

"This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by people of all colors and faiths." --Publishers Weekly

"It's a story about keeping on and about not being a victim. It's a love story...Much hilarity is mixed in with much sadness. As McBride describes the chaotic life in a family of fourteen, you can almost feel the teasing, the yelling, and the love...This book is a delight, a goading and an inspiration, worth your time and a few tears."
--Sunday Denver Post

Customer Comments at Amazon Books

"Rachel and Her Children," NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW by H. Jack Geiger, March 31, 1996, Late Edition - Final

"Sneak Peek at "Color of Water" from Salon Magazine

The color of love A son discovers his mother's Jewish roots and his own identity. The Detroit News. February 1, 1996. A review and short excerpt.

NPR Morning EditionVertamae Grosvenor talks with James McBride about his book "The Color of Water" -- a memoir about his white, Jewish born mother and their family. March 27, 1996. Hear it on Real Audio.

One man's unique story about poverty, race, family Article about McBride's speech at the UC Davis Theater at the end of January, 1997. Includes quotes and excerpts from the book.

Black Son's Tribute to his Jewish Mom--Background information and quotes from McBride. Jewish Bulletin of Northern California Online.

New Student Forum 2000 Home Page