First-Year Reading Program

Hosted by the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, the First-Year Reading Program is an invitation-only opportunity for new NSU undergraduate students to receive the selected book and meet in small, faculty-led discussion groups to explore the text's message and themes.

2014 Book Selection

The Color of Water by Convocation keynote speaker James McBride

The Color of WaterIn The Color of Water, author James McBride retraces his mother's footsteps, and—through her searing and spirited voice—he recreates her remarkable story.

Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? The daughter of a failed Orthodox rabbi, she was born in Poland in 1921. Fleeing persecution, her family emigrated to America and settled in a small town in Virginia, where anti-Semitism and racial tensions ran high. At 17, Ruth married a black minister in New York City and founded an all-black Baptist church in her living room. She came to define herself not as white, but as a “light-skinned” woman raising her 12 black children.

Through this narrative, author James McBride explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage. McBride grew up in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. His mother insisted that he and his siblings attend Manhattan’s free cultural events and the best (mainly Jewish) schools. She demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion. Not until he entered his 30s did he begin to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain.

Interspersed throughout his mother’s story, McBride shares candid recollections of his own experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty, his experiences with drugs and violence, and his eventual self-realization and professional success.

The Color of Water is regarded as a vivid portrait of growing up, a haunting meditation on race and identity, and a lyrical valentine to a mother from her son. The book has sold more than two million copies and spent two years on The New York Times Bestseller List.

Learn more about the college's Distinguished Speakers Series.