Mr. Miller's English 10 Lit Circles Wiki

Color Of Water, James McBride

By: Jessica, Anthony, George

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"Why didn't you scream?" I asked, when I finally got my tongue back.
"It's just a purse," she said. "Don't worry about it. Let's just get home." (34)
I wonder why the mother is so unreactive and non-rebellious when she's attacked or criticized. I could never hold back like she has been doing. In a sense, it shows that she's very strong inside, yet quite insecure. It is very hard to keep your mouth shut in a situation such as this.(George)

I was shocked when I found out that Rachel had 12 children. Also, at first I didn't understand the italics. But, now I understand that it is the mother's point of veiw and her thought on the past, present and future. (Anthony)


I had a few good post-its...

My first one read "Being Jewish and having a handicapped mother. I was ashamed of my mother, but see, love didn't come natural to me until I became a Christian." (38) It's amazing to me how much religions can change a person's thoughts toward their life. People's entire perspectives on any given subject or belief can transform by a single change in their religion or what their God is telling them. I think Rachel's thoughts are heavily influenced by God, which is why she's so religious and wants her kids kids to become the same way. (George)

My second one read "I did have low self-esteem as a child. I felt low." (43) Molestation, rape, etc. is a very serious subject although it may seem like a simple sexual encounter. The victim of this violent act is often affected chronically and can't re-gain their prior sense of self-confidence. This is because they are constantly haunted by the image of the person that committed this terrible crime. I feel this is why Rachel has been so deeply affected by this event. (George)

"I wonder if the Black Panther member noticed James' mother? And what could have happenend if he did?"( 35) I dont think that he saw James' mother. But i think that later on in the book the black panther's son may give James some problems at camp for having a white mother. (Jessica)

"When will the mother tell James and the other children about her past and about their father? And will she be completely honest about everything?" I think that the mom will tell James first then she will tel the rest of the kids when they get older or start to ask about it more. And i do think that sh ewill be honest about it. (Jessica)



I feel that a few of the main themes in this book are racism, isolation, and a search for identity. Rachel is a white woman in a black society. Within this society, many hate groups exist such as the "Black Panthers", who push "black power" to its limits. Rachel is endangered by these racist people because she is isolated in this society and they can potentially harm her due to hating whites. For some reason, she seems to ignore this, while only her kids realize the possibility of her getting hurt and fear the potential of this happening. She constantly ignores them when it comes to them inquiring why she's different from other mothers, and anything involving race. She is a very private woman that isolates herself from the world around her and keeps quiet. I feel that this is because of a strong insecurity that she's built up due to being different. She needs to step outside and let the world know her true identity, that she's a really nice and considereate person regardless of her color. This is the only way for others to accept who she truly is. (George) bring up some interesting points about communication as well as the other themes. As you read, continue to look for Ruth's communication with her children (or lack thereof) and its impact on each of them, especially James, as well as on the family. You wrote that "for some reason she seems to ignore this" (the fact that she is isolated and endangered); think about what the reasons may be for the fact that she seems to ignore her past and the turbulent environment around her as you continue to read...(Mrs. D)

There are many recurring conflicts throughout this book. Mainly, it is that James is embarassed for and by his mother due to her being one of the few whites in a dominately black society. She is looked at as an outsider and James feels ashamed for her because of this. Another conflict is that James faces the fear of his mother being brutally attacked in both physical and verbal ways due to her skin color. She's already been mugged by two blacks and thought nothing of it. This scares James because he now fears that his mother's life could be taken away. One other conflict is James' mom searching for her true identity. I especially feel that she is too private with life (possibly due to her being white) and should open up more often to let her inner soul loose. She is too uptight and needs to go out and experience the way the world truly is. So, these conflicts can exhibit person vs. person, person vs. self, and person vs. the environment. These conflicts all help exhibit the idea and theme of racism, which is a dominant theme of this book. This theme has begun to progress from black mothers giving dirty looks to black men mugging James' mom. It shows that people generally tend to pick on the minority in any given society or circumstance, simply because they are just different. (George)

Racism is obviously a deciding theme throughout this book. This quote spoken by Rachel gives the general overview of its tendency to show up during the book: "I always felt that way about the South, that beneath the smiles and southern hospitality and politeness were a lot of guns and liquor and streets. A lot of those secrets ended up floating down the Nansemond River just down the road from us..." (111) This specific quote stated by James' mother represents how racism is quite a dominant theme in the book. Although this quite is in regards to her black boyfriend in a white society, now the tables have turned and she is a white woman in a black society. It demonstrates that people who feel strongly enough that other races are inferior to them will do anything to make it a public concern. This sense of hate can be so strong that at times it can lead to murder. For example, the KKK expresses this powerful idea of racism to the fullest extent. And, this is why James' mom is endangered in this society. The quote may be the opposite situation in terms of skin color, but it is definitely analagous to the situation she's currently in. The danger surrounding her is infinite and she's not safe. Racism is quite a scary, yet banal theme in this particular novel. (George)

Racism became, in my opinion, the most prevalent theme throughout this novel. I feel that it is demonstrated through this quote: "For her, her Jewish side is gone. She opened the door for me but closed it for herself long ago, and for her to crack it open and peek inside was like eating fire." (269). This shows that James need for future happiness and success was truly the lat puzzle piece to leading an enjoyable and unquestionable lifestyle. The barrier his mother created between herself and her children's race and identity was finally broken by the end of the book and now James has progressed toward becoming a true man. This barrier that his mother created also served as the reason for a pause in his life. Knowing who he truly was in regards to race, identity, etc. was essential to his life moving on. Therefore, the conflicts of racism and identity were solved for their family, and due to that their lives may go on more normally, without a chip on their shoulders that reminded them of an unspoken history. (George)

Family & Communication

I think that one of the main themes to this book is family and communication. From what I have read so far family is very important to James and his mother. Rachel teaches her children to trust in and rely on every member of the family. She does this by making the children have partners to work together and solve problems together because she does not have enough time to pay attention to each one of them individually. I think that James will learn more and more as he grows about his family and his mothers secrets and past. As far as the other theme communication goes, i feel that this is theme is mainly focused on the mother and her lack of communication and the way she communicates with her children. This mostly comes up when James asks her questions about her skin color and about her background, she just finds a way to go around the question and barely answers it. I hope that later on in the book Rachel will communicate better with her children. (Jessica)

Isolation / A Search for Identity

She is a very private woman that isolates herself from the world around her and keeps quiet because she is white and she doesn't people to say bad things about her. She also chooses the road of isolation by staying in her house and never experiencing the world around her. I feel that this is because of a strong insecurity that she's built up due to being different. (Anthony)

Vocabulary Words

Meek- not violent or strong; moderate (3, Anthony)
Infallible- not liable to mislead, deceive, or disappoint; certain (5, George)
Fedora- a low soft felt hat with the crown creased lengthwise (6, Anthony)
Substandard- deviating from or falling short of a standard or norm (29, George)
Congregation- an assembly of persons met for worship and religious instruction (38, George)
Matzoh- unleavened bread eaten especially at the Passover (43, Anthony)
Gentile- a person of a non-Jewish nation or of non-Jewish faith (81, George)