As a boy in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, James McBride knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say 'I'm light-skinned.' Later he wondered if he was different too, and asked his mother if he was black or white. 'You're a human being,' she snapped. 'Educate yourself or you'll be a nobody!' And when James asked what colour God was, she said 'God is the colour of water.' As an adult, McBride finally persuaded his mother to tell her story - the story of a rabbi's daughter, born in Poland and raised in the South, who fled to Harlem, married a black man, founded a Baptist church, and put twelve children through college.

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