Mr. Miller's English 10 Lit Circles Wiki

The Color of Water

James McBride

Hayley, Meaghan, Zack, Rebekah and Jordan

Use the following headings to help you keep track of the required elements:

During our discussion in class yesterday we talked about many things. One thing we talked during class was how the mother, Rachel, was sexually abused by her father. We thought it was scary and it must have been hard for her to deal with her father abusing her. Another thing we talked about the Black Panthers and what James thought of them. The last thing we talked about was rascism. Rachel was called many names like "Jew Baby".


Pg 70 "Dennis, oh glorious Dennis, oh mighty Dennis--Dennis! Dennis!-- sought the highest, most wonderful, mosy incredible achievement any human being, any son, could hope to achieve."

Search for Identity

Timeline Of Events From The Book--


Literature Circles Post #1
Throughout the Book i am reading I learned a lot about family. The book is about how a white/Jewish woman has 12 black children. Many times her child who is writing, James, talks about how his mother is white. She was a whit woman living in a black neighborhood. Many people look at her differently becuase she is;k not like them. The theme i chose was family because James' family is very different from many others. This family has to go through what people say about them because their mother is white. At times the childrens friends would stare at the mother. At one point James talks about how when his mother would come riding down the street the 12 children would ignore it and pretend they didnt know her. Some times people are embarrased by their family. In this book that is true.


As I read The Color of Water, I notice that one of the themes in the book is racism. As soon as I read that the mom was white and her son black, I knew that racism had to play an important role in the story of the book. I saw an example of this theme right in the first chapter, when Rachel talks about being dead to her parents. She was dead to her parents because she married a black man, and they didn't approve of her decision. Later on in the chapter, racism is displayed again, this time at James' bus stop. The other parents don't talk to Rachel, and she doesn't talk to them; she's white, they're black. They'll talk to her black son, but not his white mom.


Rebekah: I agree with your choice of theme for this story. Racism playes a huge role in this book and the fact that her son is black and she is white just backs up this theory even more. Racism is displayed in more then one area; when the mother rides her bike the author talkes about how the black mothers would make fun of her. Another display of racism in this book was how when the children would see their mother riding down the road on her bike they would disregard her and pretend to not know her. Her husband only married her to get to the U.S. the whole marrage was a money agreement between the parents. No love was ever shown in the marrage. The kids were sexually abused and mistreated. I believe that racism is a huge factor in this book and i also think that there are many problems in this family that have to be delt with.

After starting to read this book, I have focused much of it on one theme which is family. In this book i feel like there are two examples of how a family is "put together". I feel as if the mother's relationship with her family is completely different from her sons relationship with his family. It seems to me as if the mother is just trying to forget her relationship completely with her parents and the son only want's to know more about his mother's life so he can understand more of it. Even though it seems as if the son is embarrased by his mother because he is black and she is white, I feel as if as he get's to know and understand her more he will soon realize that the color of his skin makes her no different from him himself.


Jordan says:
While reading The Color of Water i have been learning a lot about families and issues that they may face. I like the book so far and think that it is good. The format of the chapters appeals to me also. I like reading one persons feelings and then in the next chapter reading about what the other think about the same things. It shows how parents and children look at different situation in different ways. I hope that by the end of this interview they are closer than origonally because i think that its sad that for almost all of her childrens life they knew little to nothing about their mother. Another thing that i noticed was that there was a lot of racisum expressed in different ways. For example when they describe the mother waiting at the bus stop alone and separated from the other mothers because she is white and they are black. I think that that hurt the son a little because his mom was like the outcast of the mothers and all of his friends went off with their mothers together, yet he and his mother walked back home without speaking to the others. I have enjoyed what i've been reading and can't wait to see what will happen next.

With only having read 36 pages in the book, I feel that I can somewhat identify the occuring themes in The Color of Water. The themes that best relate to this book are racism, family, and the search for identity. Racism is shown in this book when James' mother used to be called, "Jew Baby" when she was younger. Family plays another big role in the book when James' mother doesn't have a very good relationship with her father our her taking care of 12 black children in the projects. The main purpose of this book even existing is that it maps the road James travled to find out who he was or what his heritage is. This is the main theme in that color of water.


Zack, I feel you made some good comments on what the themes are relating to the book. I also thought the same of you in regards to the themes. However, I feel that the racism is exemplified by when their mother is called "Jew Baby", but even more so of how she is a white woman in a black society. For example, when she got mugged by the black man who called her a "Nigger Lover". I feel there is a stronger deal of racism between blacks and whites, not between Jews and Catholics. Yet, I feel you on the search for identity theme. I had the same ideas, that James needs to find out who he truly is to go on in life and be self confident.

-George Dummar

Goerge D.I think so too, the way you wrote about the theme and clearefied all of the acts of the mother was very good.I think in the theme of the story is about racism to, and how you deal with it.Like the mother rasing 12 kids, all dark skinned, and she her self is light skinned. The names they call her is just how the racism shows how far they go to make the "diffrent" person feel.I think so to that James should not worry that much about his mom being black, lifes hard and he's got to just accept it. I can't wait either to read the book farther.

- Alec hall

Literature Circles Post #3
Jordan Says:
Some postits that i put in my book were:
1) Page 16 -2nd paragraph- I wrote: 'She also drank her tea out of a glass and that was one of the only things that her son knew about her when this novel began.' The reason that i wrote this was because i thought it was weird how one thing that she specifically remembered about her grandfather, was one thing that her son remembered about her. By the way that she was talking about her grandfather, i think that she looked up to him in a sence. Maybe she drank her tea like her grandfather did because it reminded her of good things about her family life as a child.
2) Page 42 - 2nd paragraph - I wrote: 'OH MY GOSH!!!!! i had suspected that she had something that bothered her about her childhood, yet i never expected for her father to be a sexual preditor to his own children. Could this be why he was such a bad rabii, and that eveywhere they tried to go and live he would get fired not far into the job?' The reason that i wrote this was because i was absolutly shocked that her father molested her when she was a child and touched her in private areas of her body. I think that this could be a reason that he got fired so frequently because he was a creap, and there were probably complants by people that they may have been freaked out by him. I can't believe that a father could do things like this to their children, and threaten them not to tell anyone or else. This is horrible and it disgusts me that a father could get pleasure out of doing things like this to their own children.

Bekah says:
1) On page 52, I wrote, "Hey that's the title." It was here in the book that I first found the title. James is talking to his mom about God and he asks if God is black or white. His mom's answer is the title, "...the color of water." I was, and still am, a little confused. Why is that one answer so important to the storyline that it became the title for the entire text? After thinking about it just now, maybe it's to say that race really doesn't matter. If God isn't really a color at all, according to religous people, I guess color wouldn't matter at all. I'm not exactly sure.
2) On page 36 I wrote, "Why does it say that James ate up the view of the media about Black Panthers?" The media portrayed Black Panthers as awful, violent black people dressed in leather who were out to kill whites. I haven't learned much about them so I don't really have more information then what I've heard from Zack. We discussed this a little yesterday and Zack said that Black Panthers weren't violent, and the way the media portrayed them wasn't accurate; they were just standing up for their rights. What Zack said makes sense because the book mentions that the Black Panther hardly noticed James' mom at all. If he was out to kill white people, I think he'd pay more attention to her.

Meaghan says:
1.) Page 42 - My post-it read "WOAH!" i was shocked when i read the part where it explains what Rachel's father had done to her as a child. At first when I started to read this book i didn't really understand how some could hate their parents as much as Rachel hated her father. But after reading the things that he had done to her i don't blame her for not liking her father.
2.) Page 7 - My post-it read "Why is he embarrased of his mother?" Most children are embarrased of things that there parents do or say but i don't understand how a child could be embarrassed of their mother or parents even because of the color of their skin. When James said "She's white, that's bad enough" that shocked me more then anything. Rachel has had a bad child hood growing up and she lost her husband the last thing she needs is for her own child to be ashamed of her because of the color of her skin. Hopefully James will soon realize that the color of their skin has nothing to do with how they should feel about eachother.

Literature Circles Post #4
Jordan Says:
There is definatley a theme to this story. Family seems to be the main subject that has been expressed through the two main characters in many ways. James is sort of telling his mother about his childhood, and certain instances that stood out to him and how he felt about their family. His mother has been explaining to James about her childhood, and what kinds of things she went through. I think that hearing all about James' mothers childhood explains a lot about herself, and how she felt about her own family. I also think that hearing what James' mother has to say about how she was treated as a child explains that she didn't want her children to go through being judged if they knew her children were part jewish, or came from a family like hers. As a child she was horribly abused, physically, vocally, and mentally, and i don't think that she wanted her children to have to experience any kind of abuse from anyone, and i think thats why she kept quiet and didn't want to tell anyone about her past history. I think that this says many things about people in general. The most obvious thing that it says to me is that parents who were put through a lot as children, do many things to protect their own children from going through anything of the same sort.

Meaghan Says:
One of the main themes that i see in this book The Color of Water. Is the theme of family. James never really felt close to his mother growing up and that was mostly because of that she was white and he was black. But James really didn't understand the true story of his mother, nor did the mother really understand what James' life was like growing up. Rachel was abused many ways while growing up that none of her children or family ever knew about til she got up the courage to tell her story to James. Like jordan i also feel that Rachel waited this long to tell about her story and life cause she didn't want her children to have to go through the same pain (verbal, mental, and physical) that she herself had to go through while growing up. I feel as if the recurring conflict about how Rachel's life growing up with horrible plays a major part of the theme of family. That's because no matter how your life was with your previous family doesn't mean that that's going to happen in your future family. You need to take what has happened to you in the past and make sure that your loved one's don't get hurt the same way that you had been.

Bekah Says:
Agreeing with the general opinion of my group, I believe that the most predominant theme so far in the book has been the theme of family. Throughout the portion of the book that I've read so far, there have been many conflicts that have revealed the "central theme". The conflict between Helen and Ruth has really shown me the theme of family. I don't know why, but that one continuous conflict has stood out in my head. The whole family's reaction to Helen leaving, especially Ruth's, indicated that family is a very important theme in this book. Ruth sends her son to try and convince Helen to come back, she contacts police, she goes to great lengths to make sure that her daughter is okay and to try and bring her home. Later, Helen returns older with a kid, showing that family bonds are strong in the family. It just goes to show, that no matter what they say, no matter how much you hate them at times, at the end of the day, they're still your family, and they're still the people that you'll love for the rest of your life.

Literature Circles Post #5
Bekah Says:
Theme: racism
Passage: "The question of race was like the power of the moon in my house. It's what made the river flow, the ocean swell, and the tide rise, but it was a silent power, intractable, indomitable, indisputable, and thus completely ignorable. Mommy kept us at a frantic living pace that left no time for the problem." (page 94)
Response: Although I still believe that family is the most predominant theme so far in the book, racism is close behind it. The book constantly paints pictures of family conflicts that occur over racism. This passage summed up the importance of racism in the book just in just that first sentence. So far, the issue of racism has broken up the family in ways that seem impossible to fix; Helen left and returned with a daughter, Richie has unanswered questions, one kid went to France, kids dropped in and out of schools like flies...the list goes on. "One by one, my elder siblings broke with her rules, coming home bearing fruits of their own confusion..." (page 96) Racism affected all of their actions; leaving home, coming home, having kids, getting married, and getting divorced. I'm anxious to see whether the affect racism has had on the family will continue in the rest of the book.

Jordan Says:
Theme: Family
Passage: Page 62 -- "... My father was a rabbi, right? Shouldn't his kids know the old testament? We hated those sessions. Tateh had no patience, and he'd often stop you in the middle of your verse toscold or slap you if you showed disinterest in the Bible. Sometimes the scolding made you feel worse than the hitting."You're stupid. You're nothing but a fool. A sinner. You're unredeemed before God," he'd say. Sam was his main target. He'd make Sam sit in the corner for hours and read Hebrew. He never showed any love toward his son. "
Responce: The theme of family is an obviouse 'issue' expressed in this passage. Although the type of family in this passage is not the most inspirationsal, it still is an example of problems families may have. When i read this passage i wasn't too surprised that Ruth's father did the things that she described. In previous chapters it was concluded that he was not a good father, but more of a creep. I think that it is sad for a father to not show love to his children as Ruth's father did. He doesn't seem like a father that has any family morals, or any morals for that reason. Reading about all of the horrible things that Ruth's father did to her and her siblings, made me think about other things that may have causeed his problems. For example, when i read this particular passage one question that came to me was ..." I wonder how he was treated as a child?"... Maybe as a child, Ruth's father was treated horribly. Altough part of me thinks, well if he was treated horribly, wouldn't he want his kids to have a better childhood than he had?, and the other part of me things, maybe in his eyes he feels being treated the way he treated his children was the best way to raise them, whether he was or was not treated like that as a child.

Meag Says :
Theme : Family
Passage : Pg. 86 - "Looking back, I realize that i never felt any kinetic relationship to Jews. We were insulated from their world and any other would but our own. Yet there was a part of me that recognizes Jews as slightly different from other white folks, partly through information gleaned from Mommy, who concsciously and unconsciously sought many things Jewish, and partly through my elder siblings."
Response : Through out reading this book it is obvious to every reader that family is a big theme/issue in this book The Color of Water. I think that is because the mother had such a bad child hood while growing up when she was living with a very Jewish Family, and know with her children i feel like she wants to not relive her child hood so she doesn't illistrate as much that she is Jewish. Which in the long run i feel hurts her children especially James who didn't really understand his mother at first and was really embarrassed of her.

Literature Circles Post #6

Hayley says-
One major theme we talked about throughout the enitre book is rascism. James and his family encountered a lot of rascism in their lives. James was very embarrassed about how his mother was white and he was black. In one part of the book James talks about how he went to the store to buy milk and the white man gave him spoiled milk because he was black. Things like this happened to him all the time. James' mother Rachel also experienced a lot of rascism during her life.

Bekah says-
In addition to racism, we often discussed the theme of family. Since this book is what would be considered James' "memoirs" it makes sense that one of its biggest subjects is family. It was interesting to see how many struggles the family went through and at the end, went their separate ways, but they still remain a family. I liked how James told us that the family gets together every so often for holiday gatherings and such. One of the biggest things that James disscussed was his search for identity, which I think had an impact on his family conflicts. "Mommy's children are extraordinary people, most of them leaders in their own right. All of them havetoted more mental baggage and dealt with more hardship than they care to remember, yet they carry themselves with a giant measure of dignity, humility, and humor. Like any family we have problems, but we have always been close." (page 276) I've mentioned this many times already, but this book shows that no matter what happens, your family will always be your family, no matter what happens.

Ways to grade us--
Some ways to assess the groups while they are working together are to see how much they are talking and not fooling around, observe how each group member is contributing in the discussion, write down some of the main points the group talked about and have them hand the paper in, we could write down a summary of what we read in the book, we can each write down questions we have about the book that no one understands, discuss the questions that we have.

Make this a heading for summaries of what was discussed on discussion days

Discussion day one
Discussion day two
Discussion day three

Make this a heading for An ongoing list of questions/reactions/responses related to the daily reading

Make this a heading for evidence from text that is related to various themes in the book

Make this a heading for list of vocabulary words from the book

To use the discussion feature, click the discussion tab at the top of the page and post a question or response to a question