Coming of Age- the Color of Water
The main character Ruth McBride Jordan came of age during the 1940’s. American History tells us that during the 1940’s Jewish people were fleeing to America from Hitler and the Holocaust. World war II was also taking place and with the men leaving to go fight in the war women were needed to replace the men and get jobs. These historic events in American history are relevant to this story, because during this time frame, Ruth had to work at her Aunt’s leather factory in order to survive in New York on her own.
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At this point in her life, she was dating a African American man named Andrew Dennis McBride, and during these times if you were white and dated a black man you were now known as “one of them. ” African Americans back then were minorities, and were given no respect. If Ruth lived in our era, she would not be shamed upon for having a husband or children of another race. Ruth would have also been treated equally and not looked at differently because she was Jewish. She might have even finished high school instead of move to New York.
She would have had more chances in today’s society to go to college and pursue a career that she would enjoy and perhaps been able to support her family financially. Another main character James McBride came of age during the 1970’s. American History tells us that during the 1970’s women and minorities were still struggling for full legal equality and privileges in society. Affirmative Action had become a controversial policy because women and minorities were demanding rights to jobs and education.
These historic events in history were significant to the story because during this time frame James was on his way to college. James’ grades were not so good but his musical talent helped get him into Oberlin College. With the society changing and James being black it was hard to simply walk the street without having somebody suspecting he did something wrong. Since racial issues was still a big factor when James was a kid people would stare at him with disgust as he walked down the street with his white mother.
While James was becoming a teenager he began to realize this more and more and he had begun to hide his mother from people like his friends. Once James left for college he didn’t care what people thought of him and his white mother not just because he was coming of age but also because racial issues were not as big a deal now as it was then. If James had lived in our era, there would be a lower chance that he would have received dirty looks when he walked down the street with his mother.
He also may not have had as many problems financially as a child, because his mother may have had a better job to be able to provide James with financial security. James’ grades in high school may have even improved because he would have had more opportunities to choose a school that he could be successful in. Since there are more chances for students to volunteer or be involved in after school activities, James may not have been involved with drugs and alcohol at the age of 16.