Why was Rachel embarrassed by her mother?  

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

James McBride begins his book by sharing the history of his parents with us. His mother was named Ruchel Dwajra Zylska when she was born in Poland on April 1, 1921. When her parents came to America, they renamed their daughter Rachel Deborah Shilsky. Rachel herself changed her name to Ruth after she left Virginia in 1941.

Rachel's mother was named Hudis, and she was a 'gentle and meek' woman. In her reminiscences, Rachel remembers her mother as a 'sweet Mameh.' However, due to polio, Hudis was paralyzed on the left side of her body. Her left hand was bent at the wrist and was useless to her. Almost blind in her left eye, Hudis also had a severe limp; she had to drag her left foot behind her as she walked. Because Rachel's father, Tateh, often made fun of Mameh's condition, Rachel had a poor role model to follow in terms of relating to those with disabilities. So, Rachel often found herself embarrassed by her mother's disability; she maintains that she did not really change her poor attitude until after she converted to Christianity.

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The Color of Water

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