Books and Movies Reviews

Color of Water

Before I read “The Color of Water,” by James McBride, I saw his
appearance on 20/20, discussing his quest to discover the background of
his mysterious, marvelous mother. McBride said he didn’t even know his
mother’s maiden name, much less about her Orthodox Jewish background,
until he prodded it from her because he needed it for school records.
“Shilsky,” she told him, impatiently, offering no further details.
McBride, who is now about 42 years old, said he asked no more questions
of her, but added when he was “bonding” in Black Pride with his college
friends, playing bongo drums and jazz music, he’d think: “Shilsky. Shilsky.
Something’s funny here…”.
Watching him on television, such a fascinating, articulate and yet
entertaining man, made me want to know more about his amazing mother. I
received a copy of the book as a gift.
None of Ruth McBride’s 12 children knew anything of substance about her
background. When they asked what color she was, she would answer, “I
am no color” and say that God is “the color of water.”
Ruth Shilsky, whose father was an abusive Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, treated
her and her mother extremely cruelly when she was a young girl in Suffolk,
Virginia. Jews were discriminated against second only to blacks. But Ruth
fell in love with a young black man, became pregnant by him, and was sent
to live with an aunt in New York city. She never went home again. She felt
much more at home in 1940s Harlem, …


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