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2003 Program

The Life of the Mind common book selection for the Class of 2007 is James McBride’s The Color of Water.

“Complex and moving… suffused with issues of race, religion and identity. Yet those issues, so much a part of their lives and stories, are not central. The triumph of the bookand of their livesis that race and religion are transcended in these interwoven histories by family love, the sheer force of a mother’s will and her unshakable insistence that only two things really mattered: school and church… The two stories, son’s and mother’s, beautifully juxtaposed, strike a graceful note at a time of racial polarization
The New York Times

About the Book

images-2James McBride grew up one of twelve siblings in the all-black housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white. The object of McBride’s constant embarrassment, and his continuous fear for her safety, his mother was an inspiring figure, who through sheer force of will saw her dozen children through college, and many through graduate school. McBride was an adult before he discovered the truth about his mother: the daughter of a failed itinerant Orthodox rabbi in rural Virginia, she had run away to Harlem, married a black man, and founded an all-black Baptist church in her living room in Red Hook. In this remarkable memoir, she tells in her own words the story of her past. Around her narrative, James McBride has written a powerful portrait of growing up, a meditation on race and identity, and a poignant, beautifully crafted hymn from a son to his mother.

Praise for The Color of Water

Incredibly moving.

James McBride evokes his childhood trek across the great racial divide with the kind of power and grace that touches and uplifts all hearts.

About the Author

images-1James McBride, a writer and musician, is a former staff writer for The Boston Globe, People magazine, and The Washington Post. A professional saxophonist and composer, he has received the Richard Rodgers Development Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Music Theater Festival’s Stephen Sondheim Award for his work in musical theater composition. He lives in South Nyack, New York.

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