50 The Color of Water Quotes With Page Numbers

The Color of Water quotes with page numbers give a deeper understanding of the book.

The Color of Water is an inspirational memoir of a young black boy growing up in a white family. It’s full of remarkable quotes that explore the themes of family, identity, and race. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most powerful quotes from the book and provide page numbers so you can find them easily.

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The Color of Water Quotes With Page Numbers Chapters 1-5

“As a boy, I never knew where my mother was from—where she was born, who her parents were. When I asked she’d say, “God made me.” When I asked if she was white, she’d say, “I’m light-skinned,” and change the subject. She raised twelve black children and sent us all to college and in most cases graduate school. Her children became doctors, professors, chemists, teachers—yet none of us even knew her maiden name until we were grown. It took me fourteen years to unearth her remarkable story—the daughter of an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, she married a black man in 1942—and she revealed it more as a favor to me than out of any desire to revisit her past. Here is her life as she told it to me, and betwixt and between the pages of her life you will find mine as well.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Page xix

 

“My siblings and I spent hours playing tricks and teasing one another. It was our way of dealing with realities over which we had no control.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 4, Page 22

 

“My parents were nonmaterialistic. They believed that money without knowledge was worthless, that education tempered with religion was the way to climb out of poverty in America, and over the years they were proven right.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 4, Page 29

 

“Mommy’s contradictions crashed and slammed against one another like bumper cars at Coney Island. White folks, she felt, were implicitly evil toward blacks, yet she forced us to go to white schools to get the best education. Blacks could be trusted more, but anything involving blacks was probably slightly substandard. She disliked people with money yet was in constant need of it. She couldn’t stand racists of either color and had great distaste for bourgeois blacks who sought to emulate rich whites by putting on airs and “doing silly things like covering their couches with plastic and holding teacups with their pinkies out.” “What fools!” she’d hiss. She wouldn’t be bothered with parents who bragged about their children’s accomplishments, yet she insisted we strive for the highest professional goals. She was against welfare and never applied for it despite our need, but championed those who availed themselves of it.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 4, Pages 29, 30

 

“I asked her who he was and she said, “He was a man ahead of his time.” She actually liked Malcolm X. She put him in nearly the same category as her other civil rights heroes, Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Kennedys—any Kennedy. When Malcolm X talked about “the white devil” Mommy simply felt those references didn’t apply to her.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride and Ruth McBride Jordan), Chapter 4, Page 32

 

“I was ashamed of my mother, but see, love didn’t come natural to me until I became a Christian.- Ruth McBride”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 5, Page 38

 

“kneydlach, gefilte fish, kugl, chopped liver, and”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 5, Page 41

 

Quotes From The Color of Water With Page Numbers Chapters 6-10

“Owens, our minister, would get up from his seat and stop the song. He’d sit behind his pulpit in a spiritual trance, his eyes closed, clad in a long blue robe with a white scarf and billowed sleeves, as if he were prepared to float away to heaven himself, until one of Mommy’s clunker notes roused him. One eye would pop open with a jolt, as if someone had just poured cold water down his back. He’d coolly run the eye in a circle, gazing around at the congregation of forty-odd parishioners to see where the whirring noise was coming from. When his eye landed on Mommy, he’d nod as if to say, “Oh, it’s just Sister Jordan”; then he’d slip back into his spiritual trance.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 6, Pages 45, 46

 

“I never understood why God would climb into these people with such fervor, until I became a grown man myself and came to understand the nature and power of God’s many blessings, but even as a boy I knew God was all-powerful because of Mommy’s utter deference to Him, and also because she would occasionally do something in church that I never saw her do at home or anywhere else: at some point in the service, usually when the congregation was singing one of her favorite songs, like “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” she would bow down her head and weep.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 6, Pages 49-50

 

“God is the color of water. Water doesn’t have a color.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride Jordan), Chapter 6, Page 51

 

“My brothers and sisters were my best friends, but when it came to food, they were my enemies.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride Jordan), Chapter 8, Pages 65-66

 

“back,” Daddy said. “It’ll work out.” He had no idea what to do about Helen. They spoke a completely different language. He was an old-timer who called school “schoolin”’ and called me “boy.” He had run off from Jim Crow in the South and felt that education, any education, was a privilege. Helen was far beyond that. Weeks passed, months, and Helen didn’t return. Finally Jack called. “I found her. She’s living with some crazy woman,” Jack said. She told Ma she didn’t know much about the lady other than that she wore a lot of scarves and used incense. Mommy got the address and went to the place herself. It was a dilapidated housing project near St. Nicholas Avenue, with junkies and winos standing out front. Mommy stepped past them and walked through a haze of reefer smoke and took the elevator to the eighth floor. She went to the apartment door and listened. There was music playing on a stereo inside, and the voice of someone on the phone. She knocked on the door. The stereo lowered. “Who is it?” someone asked. It sounded like Helen. “I’m here to see Helen,” Mommy said. Silence. “I know you’re there, Helen,” Mommy said. Silence. “Helen. I want you to come home. Whatever’s wrong we’ll fix. Just forget all of it and come on home.” From down the hallway, a doorway opened and a black woman watched in silence as the dark-haired, bowlegged white lady talked to the closed door. “Please come home, Helen.” The door had a peephole in it. The peephole slid back. A large black eye peered out. “Please come home, Helen. This is no place for you to be. Just come on home.” The peephole closed.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water,  (Characters: Andrew Dennis McBride and James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 8, Page 77, 78

 

“She never spoke about Jewish people as white. She spoke about them as Jews, which made them somehow different.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Page 67

 

“Later as an adult when I heard folks talk of the love/hate relationship between blacks and Jews I understood it to the bone not because of any outside sociological study, but because of my own experience with Jewish teachers and classmates—some who were truly kind, genuine, and sensitive, others who could not hide their distaste for my black face—people I’d met during my own contacts with the Jewish world, which Mommy tacitly arranged by forcing every one of us to go to predominantly Jewish public schools.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Page 87

 

“It was in her sense of education, more than any other, that Mommy conveyed her Jewishness to us. She admired the way Jewish parents raised their children to be scholastic standouts, insulating them from a potentially harmful and dangerous public school system by clustering together within certain communities, to attend certain schools, to be taught by certain teachers who enforced discipline and encouraged learning, and she followed their lead.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Pages 87-88

 

“I asked her if I was black or white. She replied “You are a human being. Educate yourself or you’ll be a nobody!”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride and Ruth McBride Jordan), Chapter 10, Page 92

 

“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.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Page 94

 

“My siblings had already instilled the notion of black pride in me. I would have preferred that Mommy were black. Now, as a grown man, I feel privileged to have come from two worlds. My view of the world is not merely that of a black man but that of a black man with something of a Jewish soul. I don’t consider myself Jewish, but when I look at Holocaust photographs of Jewish women whose children have been wrenched from them by Nazi soldiers, the women look like my own mother and I think to myself, There but for the grace of God goes my own mother—and by extension, myself.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Page 103

 

“But as a kid, I preferred the black side, and often wished that Mommy had sent me to black schools like my friends. Instead I was stuck at that white school, P.S. 138, with white classmates who were convinced I could dance like James Brown. They constantly badgered me to do the “James Brown” for them, a squiggling of the feet made famous by the “Godfather of Soul” himself, who back in the sixties was bigger than life. I tried to explain to them that I couldn’t dance. I have always been one of the worst dancers that God has ever put upon this earth.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 10, Page 104

 

The Color of Water Quotes And Page Numbers Chapters 11-20

“in fact that’s what I liked about black folks all my life: They never judged me. My black friends never asked me how much money I made, or what school my children went to, or anything like that. They just said, “Come as you are.” Blacks have always been peaceful and trusting.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 11, Pages 109-10

 

“It was always so hot, and everyone was so polite, and everything was all surface but underneath it was like a bomb waiting to go off. 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 secrets.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 11, Page 111

 

“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 secrets. A lot of those secrets ended up floating”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 11, Page 111

 

“They were all trying hard to be American, you know, not knowing what to keep and what to leave behind. But you know what happens when you do that. If you throw water on the floor it will always find a hole, believe me.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 13, Page 135

 

“You could see him coming from a distance, appearing out of nowhere like an angel, his silhouette seeming to rise from the ground in the simmering heat . . .”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 14, Pages 145-46

 

“You have to choose between what the world expects of you and what you want for yourself,” my sister Jack told me several times. “Put yourself in God’s hands and you can’t go wrong.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James’ sister Jack), Chapter 16, Page 161

 

“But while she weebled and wobbled and leaned, she did not fall. She responded with speed and motion” (163).”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 16, Page 163

 

“Sometimes it seemed like the truth was a bandy-legged soul who dashed from one side of the world to the other and I could never find him.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 18, Page 187

 

“…since I was a little boy, she had always wanted me to go. She was always sending me off on a bus someplace, to elementary school, to camp, to relatives in Kentucky, to college. She pushed me away from her just as she’d pushed my elder siblings away when we lived in New York, literally shoving them out the front door when they left for college. ”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 18, Page 189

 

“I wanted to be a writer or a musician, not knowing that it was possible”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 20, Page 204

 

The Color of Water Quotes With Page Numbers Chapters 21-25

“I was so sorry, deep in my heart I was sorry, but all your “sorrys” are gone when a person dies. She was gone. Gone. That’s why you have to say all your “sorrys” and “I love yous” while a person is living, because tomorrow isn’t promised.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: a letter from Maneh’s family), Chapter 21, Page 217

 

“…but all your ‘sorrys’ are gone when a person dies… That’s why you have to say all your ‘sorrys’ and ‘I love yous’ while a person is living, because tomorrow isn’t promised.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: a letter from Maneh’s family), Chapter 21, Page 217

 

“A bird who flies is special. You would never trap a bird who flies” (218).”

~James McBride, The Color of Water,  (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 21, Page 218

 

“Like most of the Jews in Suffolk they treated me very kindly, truly warm and welcoming, as if I were one of them which in an odd way I suppose I was. I found it odd and amazing when white people treated me that way, as if there were no barriers between us. It said a lot about this religion—Judaism—that some of its followers, old southern crackers who talked with southern twangs and wore straw hats, seemed to believe that its covenants went beyond the color of one’s skin.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 21, Page 224

 

“There’s such a big difference between being dead and alive, I told myself, the greatest gift that anyone can give anyone else is life. And the greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life. Next to that, all the rules and religions in the world are secondary; mere words and beliefs that people choose to believe and kill and hate by. My life won’t be lived that way, and neither, I hope, will my children’s.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 22, Page 229

 

“My own humanity was awakened, rising up to greet me with a handshake as I watched the first glimmers of sunlight peek over the horizon. There’s such a big difference between being dead and alive, I told myself, and the greatest gift that anyone can give anyone else is life. And the greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life. Next to that, all the rules and religions in the world are secondary; mere words and beliefs that people choose to believe and kill and hate by. My life won’t be lived that way, and neither, I hope, will my children’s. I left for New York happy in the knowledge that my grandmother had not suffered and died for nothing.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 22, Page 229

 

“The greatest gift that anyone can give anyone is LIFE. And the greatest sin a person can do is to take away that life. NEXT to that, all rules and religions in the worldare secondary, mere words and beliefs that people CHOOSE to believe and KILL and HATE by.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 22, Page 229

 

“See, a marriage needs love. And God. And a little money. That’s all.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 23, Page 233

 

“The man was the finest preacher. He could make a frog stand up straight and get happy with Jesus.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 23, Page 233

 

“Anyone who has ever revisited the place of his birth after years of absence is shocked by the differences between the way the place actually is, and the way he has remembered it. He may walk along old familiar streets and roads, but he is a stranger in a strange land. He has thought of this place as home, but he finds he is no longer here even in spirit. He has gone on to a new and different life, and in thinking longingly of the past, he has been giving thought and interest to something that no longer really exists. This being true of the physical self, how much more true it is of the spiritual self.…”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Andrew McBride quoted by James McBride), Chapter 24, Page 250

 

“Sometimes without conscious realization, our thoughts, our faith, out interests are entered into the past. We talk about other times, other places, other persons, and lose our living hold on the present. Sometimes we think if we could just go back in time we would be happy. But anyone who attempts to reenter the past is sure to be disappointed. Anyone who has ever revisited the place of his birth after years of absence is shocked by the differences between the way the place actually is, and the way he has remembered it. He may walk along old familiar streets and roads, but he is a stranger in a strange land. He has thought of this place as home, but he finds he is no longer here even in spirit. He has gone onto a new and different life, and in thinking longingly of the past, he has been giving thought and interest to something that no longer really exists.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, Chapter 24, Pages 250-51

 

“When I die,’ she said,’don’t bury me in New Jersey. Who wants to be buried in New Jersey.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 25, Page 259

 

“A doctor will kill you faster than anything.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 25, Page 260

 

“To the very end, Mommy is a flying compilation of competing interests and conflicts, a black woman in white skin, with black children and a white woman’s physical problem.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 25, Page 260

 

“Being mixed is like that tingling feeling you have in your nose just before you sneeze—you’re waiting for it to happen but it never does. Given my black face and upbringing it was easy for me to flee into the anonymity of blackness, yet I felt frustrated to live in a world that considers the color of your face an immediate political statement whether you like it or not. It took years before I began to accept the fact that the nebulous “white man’s world” wasn’t as free as it looked; that class, luck, religion all factored in as well; that many white individuals’ problems surpassed my own, often by a lot;”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 25, Page 261

 

“They did not grow up like the children of the eighties and nineties, stripped of any semblance of family other than the constant presence of drugs and violence. Their “I was raised with nuthin’ and went to Harvard anyway” experience was the criterion that white editors used to hire them. But then again, that was partly how I got through too. The whole business made me want to scream.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 25, Page 264

 

“It doesn’t matter. They’re all dead now, or in Florida,” which in her mind is the same as being dead. “I’ll never retire to Florida,” she vowed. Riding past a graveyard one day, she looked over and remarked, “That’s Florida Forever.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: Ruth McBride), Chapter 25, Page 270

 

“I’d forgotten how bright she was. The constant learning and yearning for knowledge”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Chapter 25, Page 270

 

“The plain truth is that you’d have an easier time standing in the middle of the Mississippi River and requesting that it flow backward than to expect people of different races and backgrounds to stop loving each other, stop marrying each other, stop starting families, stop enjoying the dreams that love inspires. Love is unstoppable. It is our greatest weapon, a natural force, created by God.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Afterward, Pages 292-93

 

“But at the end of the day, there are some questions that have no answers, and then one answer that has no question: love rules the game. Every time. All the time. That’s what counts.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Afterward, Page 295

 

“Family love: It is firm footing, something to cling to in a frightened world that seems to spin out of control with war, turmoil, terrorism, and uncertainty. It is our highest calling and our greatest nobility.”

~James McBride, The Color of Water, (Character: James McBride as the narrator), Afterward, Page 295

 

The Color Of Water Summary

The Color of Water is the story of a white woman, Ruth McBride Jordan, who married a black man and had twelve children with him. The book is also the story of her son, James McBride, who grew up in a mostly black community in Brooklyn, New York.

Ruth was born in Poland and came to America when she was just a child. Her mother died when Ruth was very young, and her father was not a part of her life. Her Orthodox Jewish grandparents raised Ruth. When she was sixteen, she ran away from home and married a black man, Andrew Jordan.

Ruth and Andrew had twelve children together, eleven of whom survived. James was the youngest. The family was poor, and they lived in tough neighborhoods. But Ruth was a strong woman and instilled in her children the importance of education and hard work.

James grew up to be a successful writer. The Color of Water is his story and the story of his mother, Ruth, and the family she created.

 

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