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The Color of Water

June 15, 2009

“The Color of Water” by James McBride has been on my bookshelf for years, but for some reason it took me a little while to decide to read it.  My family is about as vanilla and boring as imaginable, so Ruth’s lifestyle of dancing to the beat of a different drummer made this book impossible to put down.

Born Rachel Deborah Shilsky, the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Ruth’s childhood was filled with few friends, multiple moves, unloving parents and strict Color of Waterrules.  The south in the 1930’s was a hotbed of racial tensions and discrimination, but Ruth didn’t subscribe to those rules.  She secretly dated black boys in high school and eventually married a black man in 1940 when, even in New York City, they lived in fear of violence because of their relationship.

Ruth goes on to have 12 children and marry another black man after her first husband’s death.  She coaches her children through the racially charged 1960’s and puts each one of them through college.  Ruth seems like the coolest woman on earth and James and his brothers and sisters are incredibly lucky to have a mother who had the courage to live the life she wanted to live, regardless of what society dictated.

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