What is the author's style in The Color of Water by James McBride?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Color of Water is a combined autobiography and memoir. In the odd-numbered chapters, McBride tells the story of his mother in her own voice, and these chapters use italics. He is able to capture the voice of his mother, a Jewish woman who later told her children that she was a light-skinned black woman. For example, in Chapter 1, he writes in his mother's voice, "My family mourned me when I married your father. They said kaddish and sat shiva" (page 2). He uses the Hebrew words that his mother might have used as a child, and he captures his mother's world. 

In even-numbered chapters, he tells his own story in a non-italicized font. He writes about his confusion about his mother's identity in his own voice, one that is very different from that of his mother. He writes, for example, "Mommy's contradictions crashed and slammed against one another like bumper cars in Coney Island" (page 29). Eventually, he puts together the story of his mother's identity in a memoir that is made more powerful by combining his voice with that of his mother.