The Color of Water Characters from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes

The Color of Water

The Color of Water Characters

James McBride

The author and one of the narrators of The Color of Water. James is Ruth McBride-Jordan’s eighth child, son of Andrew Dennis McBride Sr., and stepson of Hunter Jordan Sr. James is a… (read full character analysis)

Ruth McBride-Jordan

One of the narrators of The Color of Water and James McBride’s mother. She had twelve children born to two husbands, Andrew Dennis McBride Sr. and Hunter Jordan Sr. More than anything… (read full character analysis)

Andrew Dennis McBride Sr.

James McBride’s biological father and Ruth’s first husband. He had one daughter, Jack, from a previous relationship, and eight children by Ruth. He went by Dennis instead of Andrew. His parent’s only… (read full character analysis)

Hunter Jordan Sr.

James McBride’s stepfather and Ruth’s second husband. Hunter was half black and half Native American. He lead a rich life before marrying Ruth, living in Virginia, Chicago, and Detroit, and running an illegal… (read full character analysis)

Mameh / Hudis Shilsky

Ruth’s mother, whose full name is Hudis Shilsky. She was born in 1896 in Poland to a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family. Polio paralyzed half of her body, and left her in poor health for… (read full character analysis)
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Tateh / Fishel Shilsky

Ruth’s father, whose full name is Fishel Shilsky. He was born in Russia but crossed the border to Poland to marry Mameh before immigrating to the United States. He was an Orthodox rabbi and… (read full character analysis)

Gladys “Dee-Dee” Shilsky

Ruth’s younger sister. The smartest of her siblings and the best performing in school, Ruth believed Dee-Dee to be their father’s favorite. Of all her siblings, Dee-Dee was the only one born in the… (read full character analysis)

Peter

Ruth’s first love, a young black man who Ruth met in her father’s store. It’s unclear if Peter was truly as kind and loving as Ruth remembers him, or if Ruth was so starved… (read full character analysis)

Frances Moody

Ruth’s only childhood friend from Suffolk. Frances wasn’t Jewish, but unlike many people in the community, she didn’t care what religion Ruth was. She was gentle, quiet, and kind, and did her best to… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Sam Shilksy
Ruth’s older brother. Tateh was harder on Sam than on his daughters, and as a result Sam ran away from home earlier than either of his sisters, moving to Chicago and then joining the Army in World War II, where he was killed.
Bubeh
Mameh’s mother. She was elderly and diabetic. She was also the only one in Mameh’s family who was kind to Ruth and treated her as a person instead of an obligation or burden.
Zaydeh
Mameh’s father, who died when Ruth was a young a girl.
Andrew Dennis McBride Jr.
James’s oldest sibling. Goes by Dennis.
Rosetta McBride
James’s second oldest sibling, and his oldest sister.
William “Billy” McBride
James’s third oldest sibling.
David McBride
James’s older brother.
Helen McBride-Richter
James’s older sister.
Richard McBride
James’s older brother. Goes by Richie.
Dorothy “Dotty” McBride-Wesley
James’s older sister.
Kathy Jordan
James’s younger sister.
Judy Jordan
James’s younger sister.
Hunter Jordan Jr.
The third youngest of James’s siblings.
Henry Jordan
The second youngest of James’s siblings.
Ruth Jordan
The youngest of James’s siblings.
Jacqueline “Jack” Jordan
Andrew Dennis McBride’s daughter from a relationship prior to his marriage to Ruth. The wife of Big Richard.
Big Richard
Jack’s husband.
Rev. Owens
The minister at the local church during James’s childhood. Rev. Owens had difficulty reading, and gave stuttering sermons. He was also a barber, and cut many of Ruth’s children’s hair.
Walter
One of Hunter Jordan’s brothers.
Garland
One of Hunter Jordan’s brothers.
Henry
One of Hunter Jordan’s brothers.
Clemy
One of Hunter Jordan’s cousins who lived down in Richmond.
Rodney
A childhood friend of James.
Pete
A childhood friend of James.
Aunt Laura
Mameh’s sister. She and her husband Paul owned apartment buildings in the Bronx and Harlem. She was the richest of all her siblings.
Paul Schiffman
Aunt Laura’s husband, and Ruth’s uncle.
Aunt Bernadette
Mameh’s sister.
Aunt Mary
Mameh’s sister. She owned a leather factory where Ruth worked some summers, and where Ruth eventually met her first husband, Dennis. Mary was mean to Ruth, but ran her business efficiently, which Ruth sees as a forgivable root cause of her cruelty.
Uncle Isaac
Aunt Mary’s husband. A shoemaker.
Aunt Rhonda
Mameh’s sister. She was separated from the family, and no longer speaks to her sister Berndadette, although Ruth never discovers why.
Aunt Betsy
Mameh’s youngest sister.
Beanie
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Marvin
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Chink
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Pig
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Bucky
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Joe
One of James’s friends as a teenager. Together they drank, smoked, snatched purses, and robbed trains.
Chicken Man
An alcoholic who lived in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent most of his day on the Corner outside the liquor store. James befriended him during his summers in Louisville. Although he was often intoxicated, when sober Chicken Man offered James helpful life advice.
Pike
A good friend of Big Richard. He and James stole car batteries together during James’s summers in Kentucky.
Nash McBride
Andrew McBride’s father.
Etta McBride
Andrew McBride’s mother.
Mr. Stein
A man Ruth’s Aunt Mary had an affair with.
Rocky
A barbershop owner and a pimp who hired Ruth as a manicurist before beginning to groom her for prostitution.
Hal Schiff
A music teacher who organized the American Youth Jazz Band in which James participated.
C. Lawler Rodgers
James’s music teacher at Du Pont High School.
David H. Dawson
An older white man who sponsored James’s American Youth Jazz Band trip. He and his wife Ann Fox Dawson employed James one summer.
Ann Fox Dawson
An older white woman who sponsored James’s American Youth Jazz Band trip. She and her husband David H. Dawson employed James one summer.
Pearl
A black woman who worked for the Dawson family.
Curtis Ware
A family friend of Dennis. Husband of Minnie Ware.
Minnie Ware
A family friend of Dennis. Wife of Curtis Ware.
Aunt Candis
Dennis’s aunt.
Eddie Thompson
An older black man from Suffolk who remembered Ruth and her family when James visited the town in the 1980s and 90s.
Rev. Abner Brown
The reverend at the Metropolitan Baptist Church who married Ruth and Dennis, and helped Ruth convert to Christianity. The New Brown Memorial Church’s namesake.
Linwood Bob
James’s cousin who closely resembled James’s father, Andrew Dennis McBride.
Karone
Formerly “Karen.” A model James briefly dated.
Stephanie
James McBride’s wife.
Halina Wind
A Jewish woman who in 1942 fled her Polish hometown and spent fourteen months hiding from Nazis in the sewers of a neighboring city. Her son David Lee Preston and James became best friends in their thirties.
David Lee Preston
A Jewish man who befriended James at the Wilmington News Journal where they both work. The story of his mother Halina’s escape from Nazi occupied Poland helped inspire James to dig more deeply into his mother’s family history.
Rondee
David Lee Preston’s wife.
The Sheffer Family
A Jewish family in Suffolk that helps James on his journey to uncover Ruth’s past.
The Jaffe Family
A Jewish family in Suffolk that helps James on his journey to uncover Ruth’s past.
Helen Weintraub
A Jewish woman from Suffolk who helps James on his journey to uncover Ruth’s past.