The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, January 12, 2004  

The Color of Water

It’s a new year -- at least it was last I checked, each day being much like another around here -- and that means it’s time for Philadelphia to read another book under the auspices of the city’s “One Book, One Philadelphia” program.

This year’s selection, according to today’s Philadelphia Inquirer (“Phila. Picks ‘Color of Water’ to Read,” by Daniel Rubin), is The Color of Water, a two-year bestseller (1996-1997) written by James McBride, 46, a writer and jazz saxophonist living in Solebury, Pa.

The novel, described by Rubin as “a black man’s tribute to his Polish-Jewish mother,” is set partly in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood and nearby Wilmington, Del.

Although I have some misgivings about citywide reading programs, the advantages seem to far outweigh the disadvantages. I missed out on last year’s selection, The Price of a Child, by Lorene Cary. That was unfortunate because Cary’s enthusiasm for the program -- she spoke to an amazing variety of groups in a wide range of settings -- and the incredible response of local readers made me wish I had participated in some way. I at least could have read the book.

According to the Inquirer McBride plans to speak and perform at some of the more than 100 “One Book, One Philadelphia” events scheduled during the next eight weeks. Sounds like fun.

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