Bestselling Author James McBride – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Bestselling Author James McBride

To conclude Geneva’s first annual Community Read, author James McBride will visit the HWS campus Monday, April 5 to discuss his memoir, “The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother.”

Thanks to a variety of local sponsors and organizers, like AmeriCorps VISTA coordinator at HWS Holly Kahn, Geneva community members and many students, faculty and staff at HWS read “The Color of Water” throughout the month of March, which Geneva Mayor Stu Einstein declared Geneva’s “Community Read Month.”

“The Color of Water” details the life of McBride’s mother, Ruth, and her remarkable story.  Born to failed Orthodox rabbi who fled Poland and settled in Suffolk, Virginia, a small town filled with racial tensions, Ruth left her home and her sexually-abusive father for New York City, where she married a black minister and founded the all-black New Brown Memorial Baptist Church in her living room.  She preached the belief that “God is the color of water” to her 12 children, telling them that life’s blessings and values rise above race. Ruth’s determination ensured that her children got through college and most through graduate school before she herself received a degree in social work at the age of 65.  Throughout the book, McBride reflects on his experiences as a mixed-race child of poverty and his eventual self-realization. 

This year’s “Community Read Month,” dedicated to the late Linda Blackwell, who worked at the Geneva Public Library for more than 19 years, included various events based on McBride’s book, such as a workshop with author Eileen Loveman on the art of memoir writing at the Geneva High School Library; a community discussion of “The Color of Water” at the Geneva Public Library; a The Finger Lakes Times-sponsored a memoir writing contest; and a community “game show,” titled “Parents Are From Mars, Kids Are From Venus” in which parent-child couples pitted against each other to determine what they know or don’t know about their shared cultural heritage.

Capping off the month of activities, McBride’s talk will begin at 7 p.m. in Albright Auditorium.  All are invited and encouraged to attend.

The Geneva Reads First Annual “Community Read” is sponsored by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva City School District, the Geneva Community Center, the Ramada Inn, Finger Lakes Times, Geneva Public Library, the Geneva Human Rights Commission and the African American Men’s Association. Additional support is being provided by Lyons National Bank.

Geneva Reads is a network of community partners that is dedicated to inspiring a life-long love of reading through literacy initiatives that reach out to all members of the Geneva Community. Programs include Community Bookshelves located at various locations around Geneva, School- Age Book distribution that ensures every child in Kindergarten, Grade 1 and Grade 2 receive five books each year, Books at Birth which ensures that every child born at Geneva General Hospital receives a copy of “Goodnight Moon,” Book Fest, which is held in the Spring and the Community Read. For more information, visit